When I left my house yesterday morning, there was a fine young Douglas Fir tree outside my house. Though it sits just across the fence on the neighbour’s side, it grows over our driveway and gives our bit of the terrace a sense of place. For the 35 odd years it has been there it has broken up the sight-lines down the street. It shades the house in summer and protects it from the wind in winter.
Like all trees, it creates oxygen and cleans the air. It’s a home to birds, most recently a pair of nesting pigeons. I’ve been watching them in the nest over the past few weeks, about ten feet from the bedroom window. There was a howling gale last week and I watched the tree swaying, convinced the nest was going to be blown to bits, but it barely budged.
But when I came back from work in the evening, the tree looked like this:
Our neighbour had it cut down because it was dropping pine needles on her car.
This, in a nutshell, is why nature connection is so important. When we live indoor, neatly packaging, out of season lives, we have no awareness of nature. We only engage with the natural world when it inconveniences us – when it rains, when there’s a wasp at our picnic, or when mould grows on the cheese we forgot at the back of the fridge.
We have no sense that we are part of something larger, part of a system that included the tree and the birds and the insects as well as ourselves. If our eyes aren’t open to what is around us, we’ll never spot the role that tree is playing – if it really had to go, couldn’t it have waited until the little pigeons hatched and fledged? If we don’t notice the birds nests, we’ll never think of the invisible benefits that the tree brought, the oxygen, its role in shaping the wind down the street. All we see is the negatives, the minor hassle of having to sweep up from time to time.
If we can’t see the importance of what is right in front of us, how will we ever care about climate change, or deforestation, or biodiversity loss on the other side of the world?