To the poet, a tree often represents, metaphorically, a source of spiritual growth and renewal. The tree, like humanity itself, embodies birth, life, death, regeneration and the seeds of rebirth. The seeds and the fruit of the tree are also symbolic in many ways as metaphors for fertility. The tree’s economic value, providing lumber, fruits, oils, sap, rubber and important medicines is crucial to human life. Trees are vitally important to our environment and human life here on Earth.
Through photosynthesis, trees take water and salts out of the air and lift them up to the leaves. The leaves then remove carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, from the air to provide nourishment for the tree. In addition to cleansing the air, moderating the greenhouse effect and renewing the oxygen supply, trees protect the land from erosion, provide protection from the wind, solidify soils against heavy rain, muffle noise in the environment, harbor wildlife and provide forests as popular sources of recreation and entertainment.
To many in the ancient world, trees were considered sacred. With its branches reaching up into the sky and roots sunk deep into the earth, the tree can be seen to dwell in three worlds–a link between heaven, the Earth and the underworld, uniting above and below.
Trees make our life more enjoyable because they inspire peace, serenity and tranquility in their presence. This has been confirmed many times by poets throughout history. Many poems depict trees, forests or a walk in the woods, both literally and figuratively.
Perhaps the most famous poem concerning trees is, “Trees,” by Joyce Kilmer. It’s a fabulous poem.
In the middle ages, another famous epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” by Dante, opens in the Inferno, with Dante himself lost among the trees in the dark woods, which he uses as a metaphor for where he is at that stage of his life. Dante writes, “Halfway through the journey we are living, I found myself deep in a darkened forest, for I had lost all trace of the straight path.” In reality, life is like that for many of us because, as is said, we often, “can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Michael Hickey is a local writer and poet who lives in Pelican Bay and Swampscott, Mass. His book, “Get Wisdom,” is published by Xlibris Div. Random House Publishing and is available at 1-888-795-4274 Ext. 822, atXlibris.com, or your local bookstore. E-mail Mike Hickey at Mikehic@nii.net.