Friday, April 07, 2006

The Tree

In 1964 Shell Silverstein wrote “The Giving Tree” - a tender story about a tree that unconditionally loves a little boy. It’s a moving parable about love and the “serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return” so says the sleeve.

Synopsis: As a child, the boy plays in the tree. As an adult, he harvests its apples for profit. Later in life, he chops the tree down to build a house and boat. Then finally, as an old man, he returns to the stump and sits on it.

As a work of fiction, I know this is not to be taken literally of course. But like any literary scripture, it’s open for interpretation, and I'm hard-wired to do it. So please, allow me to overanalyze.

First, I’m not so sure any activity that involves and axe can be considered “serene”.

Second, as touching as it is, this story never quite sat right with me. Honestly, I think there is a persistent ignorance in there that itself, needs to be felled.

I think this page from the book sums up my point:

The text says "And the tree was happy...but not really"

Ever since I started building surfboards out of wood, I also began to really appreciate the raw material. Now that I'm a professional consumer of lumber, I feel a sense of responsibility to replenish it.

This has been the driving force behind the Grain Surfboards policy to plant ten cedar trees for every board built.

This experience trying to germinate cedars has taught me a lot about forestry and tree horticulture. In my research of forestry and logging, I also began to realize that it’s going to take more – much more.

On a hike through the woods the other day, I came upon yet another “development project”. Instead of agonizing as I usually do, I decided to act and put my “expertise” and enthusiasm for trees to work. Today I’m developing an expanded "Tree Giving" program to be launched soon.

The story is a parable all right.

When we were young, nature gave us everything. We're still chopping it down.

PS – I’m sorry if I beat up on a cherished childhood book. I still love it too. I just wish Mr. Silverstein’s boy could have planted some of those apple seeds. If he had, think how different the world would be today.

The Lorax I think got it right .


Moderator said...

Good point about planting the seeds. I've committed this story to memory I've read it to my kids so much.

Anonymous said...

I think Ogden Nash got it right:

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.

--Ogden Nash, "Verses from 1929 On"

Anonymous said...

When you are ready, I'll help get you started.

If you plant it, they will grow.