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Maeve with cat in tree

When I was a young girl, we had a big Modesto Ash tree in our front yard. I loved to climb that tree and sit up in its canopy as high as possible. I would watch the world go by—cars, bikes, walkers, cats, birds, insects, all while feeling safe and invisible to the rest of the world. If I had a bad day at school, or wanted to get away from my big brothers, I would climb that tree and disappear. My mother liked to recount that one day after school, I came home, put down my things, and ran out to climb the tree. She did not know why, but she knew what the action signified. I needed time alone. While I was in the tree, a boy from school came over and rang the doorbell. Mom answered the door and said she did not know where I was, but he could call me later. She did not reveal my secret location. I watched as he walked away. I don’t remember what had upset me that day, but I do remember that my mother had my back, and that the tree was also my protector.

The experience of that tree haven helped form many of my later priorities and ideas about the solace one can have while in nature. Surrounding oneself in nature can be healing and comforting, and can give a feeling of wholeness. Being outdoors each day gives me a peace of mind that helps me get through most tough times.

I do not climb trees anymore, but I still consider time out among the trees and in a natural setting as a lifeline for my sanity. I think it is important for each person to find a way to renew themselves in the natural world. It is also important to see the intrinsic value that nature holds. It is what has made our lives possible; the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are all part of an interconnected web that supports life on earth. Humans seem to forget this interdependence. Protecting our natural systems gives each person on the earth a chance to have that deep, fresh breath that is life. It is our environmental home that we desperately need to save.