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An Homage to Heroes

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This blog will neither be about environmental policies, nor political/social issues regarding ecology. This not a watchdog blog to monitor but it is just a blog to say a great thank you, to express gratefulness to the green heroes of our planet, who silently and gallantly do their duty in the world's forests but more so in millions of cities, towns and their parks. The heroes who are the lungs of Humanity, whose existence facilitates our own.

On my Emirates flight to India I had a stop at Dubai airport and would have to wait six hours. What would I do with so many hours? As I was pondering and walking I suddenly had a vision, or was it a mirage? Is it possible to have a vision at an airport? There they were: about six meters tall, four or five of them, regal, sapphire green arms outstretched into the terminal of foraging passengers. Beside them was a shallow, large pool of diamond clear water. Around it shrubs and plants and I thought I even heard some birds. It was an emerald oasis in this steel aviary that receives so many beautifully painted iron birds whose graceful but noisy landings and launchings could be seen and sometimes heard.

Soon I realized it was not a vision but a reality. Trees can grow anywhere but it was so unexpected to find them here of all places. Does a shy Dryad live here secretly and tend to them? Near the water were clusters of moonlight-colored peace lilies, whose bright-white faces took me beyond the plastic, cement and steel. Peering at these airport trees I was inspired to write and sat comfortably opposite them entranced by their jade luminosity against the backdrop of bustling shops and people. The six hours would pass quickly. I cannot write odes like Keats or Shelley but at least I can honor the trees' distinctiveness of being.

These towering heroes have often been taken for granted. Here in this airport they are protected but so often their bodies are cut down, chopped up and burnt to make way for villas, highways, resorts, dams and other types of "human progress." Always they surrender stoically to their fate. Their bodies are daily offered to comfort and sustain humankind. I bow to their sacrifice. Will anyone give you any awards or medals like they do to human heroes? Has anyone thought of it?

Gazing at these out of place trees, I recall, after a hectic week in the city, talking walks in the tranquil eucalyptus forest near my home in Sydney. I felt what Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote:

"It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's heart, as for the subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit."

After one long flight and waiting for the next my weary spirit and I must say, weary body, felt rejuvenated simply by being near to these lanterns of jade foliage.

I utter a "thank God" for the proliferation of the internet as it has saved so many precious green lives. The mania for news and its global distribution is now mainly on the Internet so their heroic hearts and bodies are no longer pulverized into paper coffins, read for an hour then callously disposed of.

Trees are amongst the beings I know that are unconditionally generous. Take an apple seed: you plant it, it grows and soon produces apples upon apples; for years and years one tree produces thousands upon thousands of apples. Each apple has many seeds which have the potential for other trees; unlimited potentials every year. One seed does not just produce one apple does it? Trees have no idea of measurement, calculation and its consequent stinginess as we humans do. Mother Nature does not have "an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" mentality, which is most fortune for us otherwise we would all starve to death! Abundance and a democratic sustenance is this Mother's religion; what a relief she follows no man-made one.

Last year outside my house in Athens I had the grisly experience of finding the neighborhood's majestic, ancient carob tree guillotined. Indignant, I rang the council about the insensitivity of such a brutal act.

"Athens has such a problem in not having enough clean oxygen and you cut down one of its prime producers!" I declared.

The civil service employee told me the occupants of the apartment building complained its branches interfered with their external air conditioning apparatus. I was lost for words because I could not understand his or their logic. Though I was clear about the carnage of the event, although we argued, nothing moved the council man. To stop myself either screaming or crying I found solace in William Blake's words:

"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way."

In that moment I wrote my own poem. Writing poetry is like a meditation when wishing to ease tension and stop the self from erupting into negative outbursts that really get one nowhere. I reflected on the meaning of tyranny:

"Tyranny in Athens"

Mutilation... castration

And the accusation:

"Murder. Murder!

Why this senseless

maiming and chopping,

slashing and lopping?"

The dead lay

spread to dry.

It's easier, they say

to drag their parts away.

Today another green head

is guillotined,

simply because it's there,

obviously because it blocks the way,

irrefutably because it clutters the air,

and, unequivocally,

green does not go with grey!

Athens once opened the eyes of others

Now solidly has sealed her own!

A selfish heart cannot be wise

for it blindly lusts the "More."

Its brainless tongue wages

trivial, verbal war

in this monoxide kingdom of rage and gore."

Whilst writing this I gradually calmed down and in the heart of the calm found the trust to believe in the benevolence of the universe. So it came to pass, as it is said, that within a few months tiny, peridot heads appeared everywhere on the trunk. Its resilience was astounding and its magnanimous breath is once again serving its mutilators, who look out of their apartment windows and marvel at its strength, hopefully not calculating another necessary execution!

Once again, another example of green heroism that cannot be appraised by any accolade.

Anyway, back to my Dubai oasis where I muse on the wonders of these heroes and gradually a list emerges of all their merits.

Now here's my list of their bountiful offerings to humanity. Once trees were used a great deal for almost everything. In the last 100 years with the advent of technology other materials have been substituted but still so much of their altruism is in our lives. However I will include all that they have given and give, whether past or present. Here goes:

  1. Above all things, we thank thee Tree for our daily breath.
  2. Light and heat with the fire made from their bodies.
  3. Food: oil, fruits, nuts, honey, maple syrup and chocolate.
  4. Buckets, barrels, boxes, baskets and caskets.
  5. Plates, spoons, canoes, looms, rooms and brooms.
  6. Ships, boats, trains, frames, shacks and tracks
  7. Walls, doors, floors, drawers, see-saws, beds, sheds, chairs, tables, ceilings, cupboards, billboards, roofs and booths.
  8. Benches, fences, rafts, vats, mats, carts, masts, poles and bowls.
  9. Home for bees, birds bugs, bats and koala bears.
  10. Bridges, towers, corks, forts, bows, arrows, barrows, batons, chariots and clubs.
  11. Quills, mills, sills, pencils and wheels
  12. Cloth, clothes, shoes, soap and rope
  13. Papers, posters, letters, stamps, books, crooks, mags and maps... once could a journalist/writer accomplish their task without using the body of a tree or plant?
  14. Guitars, sitars, flutes, lutes, cellos, pianos, violins and mandolins.
  15. Climbing, cubby house, solitude, shade, palisade, Christmas celebration and meditation.
  16. Could Noah, Odysseus, Columbus, Raleigh, Nelson have done anything without them? Fleets of their bodies have floated on seas and lakes for centuries to conquer, trade, colonize, explore, travel and simply cruise.
  17. The Trojan Horse: a wooden trick of a gift that won a war.
  18. The Delphic oracle advised Athens to use "wooden walls" to defeat the powerful Persian Xerxes. The wooden ships conquered the massive Persian fleet. So the Athenians won, otherwise the West would have had a totally different story, so the historians tell us.
  19. Myths about trees: Osiris, Athena, Medeina, Pomona, Drumantia, Aranyani, Abellio, Ghillie Dhu, Daphne, the Meliai and many others.

So you can see the unpretentious heroes' great achievements without whom the human race could not have aspired, accomplished nor survived and I am sure there must be other things created by our heroes not on this list.

Standing mindful in their silence they never forget to bestow and in our silence we can never forget to revere these humane alchemists of the planet. Boarding the plane to India I recalled a quote from Gandhi:

"What we are doing to the forests of the whole world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another."

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