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Life Arts    H4'ed 4/25/12

The Love of Trees and the Power of One

Message Suzana Megles
On Care 2 this morning I read a couple of truly inspirational
pieces re the appreciation of trees by two extroardinay men. 
They must have read Joyce Kilmer's poem on the beauty of a
tree.  Even though someone clued me in to the "knowledge"
that Kilmer's poem is considered doggeral, I love it.  Then
I was never good at appreciating the "real" poetry in college,
and in my case,  I can live without it. 
I believe that some enlightened people also can live without
poetry and  come to the realization of the importance of trees
and forests on their own.  Irregardless, sadly, some people
never do  as we have to fight  to keep our forests in tact against
the profiteers who fail to realize the importance of trees for us
as well as for the  animals.  Aside from some of them being
respositories of medicinial herbs, they daily a bsorb harmful
carbon dioxide and dispense in return life-giving oxygen.  These
are two very important reasons which should make us  treasure
them along with their beauty and shade properties.  
The first inpirational man was born in India.  He would single-
handedly plant an entire forest on a sandbar in India.  When reading
this, I could only think - wow!  And of course, how wonderful
that one man could do something like this over a period of 30
years.  The dedication- the many, many man hours and the
expense of the seed made me realize just how extroardinary a
man he is.    
This account appeared first in TreeHugger.  More than thirty
years ago a young man named Jadav "Molai" Payeng began
buying seeds to grow a refuge for wildlife in northern India's
Assam region.  The Times of India caught up with him one day
in the place where he had relocated to achieve his dream - of
planting a lush new forest ecosystem.
They wanted to know what had inspired him to take on this
humongous task which would leave an indelible mark on the
It started in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes
ashore on the sand bar.  Payeng wept at this sorrowful sight -
seeing their lifeless forms.  What a sensitive young man.  Indeed,
for him and anyone who appreciates all of God's creatures - this
was a tragedy.  He knew it could have been averted had there
been a place of tree refuge with their boughs of greenery which
would have shaded them from the rays of a blazing sun which
ultimately killed them.   
Only 16 years old at the time, he already knew that it was up to
him to do something so that this would not happen again.  Wisely,
he first asked the forest department if they could grow trees there. 
They told him nothing could grow there, but if he wanted - he
could try to grow bamboo there. 
Undismayed by their unwillingness to help, he did start with bamboo
and found it a painful going, but there was no one else there to help
him.  So what was he to do?  He decided to continue planting until  the
former shadeless sandbar was transformed into an environment
where a menagerie of creatures could dwell.  Called the Molai
Woods, it has become a safe haven for birds. deers. rhinos, tigers, 
and elephants.  They don't mention snakes, but it was for them
afterall that he in the beginning was moved to start this project
of concern.    
P eyang's forest refuge has provided these species with a much
needed habitat.  Sadly, more and more of them have become at
risk from lost of habitat elsewhere.  I subscribe that those places
are in need of other visionaries like 16 year-old Payeng to reverse
the course of our destructive ways. Sadly, he seems to be the
rare one of a kind - at least in this neck of the "woods."    
Payeng is now 47 years old, and I'm  sure that he looks back on this
labor of love with great contentment and satisfaction.  Who wouldn't?
In the course of so many years, his own hands, his own money, his
own time provided a forest sanctuary for needful animals.  Finally,
even the Forestry officials have come to recognize his wonderful
efforts in this regard which they too find truly remarkable.   Of him,
the Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saikia said "We're amazed
at Peyang.  He has been at it for 30 years.  Had he been in any other
country, he would have been made a hero." 
Though perhaps gratifying as these words maybe for Payeng, I
know the the real gratification comes from him walking in the forest
he planted all by himself and seeing the forest creatures living
there under the canopy of trees he provided them with.  Payeng,
I  know that they too -if they could, would give you a wholehearted
thanks as well.  And yet,  they really do give thanks simply  by virtue
of their being there in this place of refuge you have provided
them with.  Well done Payeng, and God bless.  
Treehuggers' Stephen Messenger relates the next account of
inspiration where we find Gene DeSantis, a modern-day Johnny
Appleseed in Baltimore planting trees.  He, too, has undertaken
this labor of love for almost three decades to plant trees throughout
Baltimore  And as the first famous Johnny Appleseed, he does it
with great joy and humility. 
He works with Baltimore's Parks & People Foundation, and he notes
that he has personally planted an amazing 12,849 saplings in public
parks and sidewalk planters throughout the city.  Every one of his 
tree plantings has been duly noted in his tree journal.  Would that
every city have a Gene DeSantis!
Mark Reutter's article re him appeared in the Baltimore Brew:
"Gene has planted trees in just about every neighborhood in
Baltimore.  He's brought them to parks big and small, sat them
along streets, dug spaces for them in tight corners, inserted them
next to tall buildings and plunked them down by gurgling streams.
He never accepts any sort of payment.  Says he doesn't need to. 
Satisfaction comes from watching them grow and knowing that he's
fulfilling a personal commitment he made many years ago.  And
he says that trees are like children to me in a lot of ways."
Learning about his early home life can help us understand why he
f ound peace among the trees.  He was regularly beaten up by his
abusive stepfather, and found that trees offered him the tranquility
he needed.  At 17 his stepfather murdered his mother and then
committed suicide. 
DeSantis learned about planting trees from a group of city landscapers. 
They couldn't put him on the payroll, but DeSandis wanted to help
anyways and just never stopped.
And he also cares about the people in the community where he lives.
He helps out in the various charity kitchens and services for the elderly
and the homeless.  He has been doing this for the  past 26 years -planting
trees and volunteering for community projects. So when does he ever
have time for himself?  I guess the answer is that his life is completely
whole by doing the unselish things which give him pleasure. As the
learned and famous Joseph Campbell would probably say - "He has
found his bliss."
What an inspiration for all of us.  The next time you complain about not
having time for yourself, think of Gene DeSantis and maybe you will
realize that your complaint is probably pretty shallow.  And I wouldn't
be surprised to find out that God is first in his life, although I read no
mention of this in Messenger's article.   In my experience, people like
DeSantis reserve a special place for God in their lives.           

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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)
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