100 things to do in 1000 days; #94: Spend a day tree planting.
I have a very ambiguous relationship with nature. I love looking at pictures of it. I think we should be nicer to it. Several plants and animals that exist in it are pleasing to me. However, it also tends to make me itch and sneeze. My nose basically runs year-round; colds in winter, pollen and ragweed in summer. I also react badly to bug bites; they itch, swell, burn, and bleed. Last summer, one on my arm looked so bad (it had…a tail) that doctors thought I might have blood poisoning. (I didn’t. But that is not the point.) I’ve never been stung by a bee before, but family history isn’t uplifting. A classic approach/avoidance dilemma. Basically, the math is this:
(wonder + beauty + science + actual place that provides sustenance and shelter for life) – (allergies + fear) = …positive x? minus x? irregular x? y?
I don’t garden, and I’ve never owned any plant that wasn’t either a cactus or one of those idiot-proof bamboo trees that don’t need too much water. And I’ve still managed to kill two or three of them. (And remember that one plant I bought for #89? Remember how I kill things?) But I try. (Oh my god, do I try.) And how much damage can I really do here? Tree planting is fairly intuitive; dig hole, insert plant into hole, refill hole.
So I put “spend a day tree planting” on the list, because it’s all about learning and doing new things, and that’s why Claritin was invented. Only in this case, “a day” means “two hours” because the only tree planting program I could find that wasn’t both a) in another province, and b) about 4 months long was through Green Toronto’s Natural Environment and Community Programs, organised through the City of Toronto Forest Initiative and Toronto Region Conservation Authority under the Urban Forestry Naturalization Program.
About 35 people, children and adults, showed up to the event, which took place at Marie Curtis Park in Mississauga.
Together, we planted about 400 trees in just under two hours.
The weather was perfect. The sky had been threatening rain all day, but the downpour only started (and with a vengeance) a couple of hours after planting finished. So we got to plant in the sunshine, and the plants got refreshment. Win-win. I planted 11 trees, plus, I escaped with only several mosquito bites!
The park used to be the site of an old arms factory, and we also dug up a lot of brick, plastic bags and tape, and one explosives fragment with fuse.
Most Toronto tree plantings take place in open areas, but this one took place in an already established forest. Why? I spoke to two leaders of today’s event, Jeanette and Cheryl, who told me that although this is a mature forest with high quality understory, they want to protect the older healthy trees and help the endangered species that grows in the area, the butternut tree. There are a lot of bike paths and hiking trails in the park, so we helped to close some of them by planting new trees on the former pathways, and thus concentrating traffic in a sustainable way. Or, if you’d like, we re-routed the routes to avoid roots.
I can see how some people get addicted to this; I added it to the list a few years after reading a short story by Charlotte Gill, taken from her novel Eating Dirt, because even after all this time, her story (which I read in J-school) stuck with me. Nature may be icky, but if you spend enough time in it, icky becomes okay, even fun, and I’d gladly do it again. The trick is to just immediately get dirty, and the rest is easy. It’s kind of like paper mache that way.