Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Weekend in the Country

It's no secret that my last two novels include a dendrophilic love of trees, particularly with Reid Conniff, the narrator. He and his beguiling love interest Everett share their affections under the branches of trees in several scenes.

I'm thinking also of the two young men's time as counselors at a disabled kids summer camp in rural Pennsylvania (I based it on a camp where there actually was a disabled kids summer camp).

A new study has proven the obvious, that living near trees is good for your health. Too often urban dwellers forget to re-energize with nature.

"The researchers were able to compare the beneficial effect of trees in a neighborhood to other well-known demographic factors that are related to improved health, such as age and wealth. Thus, they found that “having ten more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.”"

And President Obama just signed a bill designating a million acres of public land as protected from development.

According to the article, "Protecting our lands is about more than just protecting our great outdoors. These designations provide a boost to the local economies of surrounding communities by attracting visitors and generating more revenue and jobs, building on an outdoor recreation industry that already generates $646 billion in consumer spending each year."

Also, "The public lands President Obama designated today protect significant cultural and historical landmarks. Native Americans have inhabited the Berryessa Snow Mountain area for at least the last 11,000 years, leaving behind their cultural influences and artifacts, such as seasonal hunting camps and earth-covered round buildings. The Basin and Range National Monument tells the story of a rich cultural tradition from petroglyph and prehistoric rock art panels, to the earliest human inhabitants 13,000 years ago, to miners and ranchers in the past century."

Of course, Republicans and their Koch brothers-backed lobbyists think all public parks should be privatized and churned into coal manufacturing or some other toxic purpose. They're no better than the fictional armies of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings, intent on destroying all life forms on earth for profit.

Citizens need to speak up to protect our parks and resources. This petiton is one way to do that.

I'm thinking about all this after a recent July 4 retreat to nearby Groundswell, a queer-owned camp that used to be a kids summer camp.

The facility in Mendicino County has been open for almost two years. It's already hosted numerous festive events and work parties to establish a communal support system for outdoor community-building.

The facility also includes a nearby farm with chickens, alpacas and goats. Popular events include meetings and workshops and delicious meals made from mostly local food, including delicious goat milk.

While most of  Groundswell is not accessible to the disabled, there are some ramps and flat areas. So while it's not the ideal camp as fictionalized in my novel Message of Love, where Reid and Everett work as counselors for disabled kids, it's got a lot going for it as a respite from urban annoyances.

And if you don't get a chance to hug a tree soon, you can write one a love letter. That's right. Trees are getting emailed letters after a Melbourne, Australia campaign to contact officials about problematic trees led to a loving series of tributes.

Like this one:
To: Algerian Oak, Tree ID 1032705
2 February 2015
Dear Algerian oak,
Thank you for giving us oxygen.
Thank you for being so pretty.
I don't know where I'd be without you to extract my carbon dioxide. (I would probably be in heaven) Stay strong, stand tall amongst the crowd.
You are the gift that keeps on giving.
We were going to speak about wildlife but don't have enough time and have other priorities unfortunately.
Hopefully one day our environment will be our priority.

Hug a tree, folks. It's good for you.

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