“I Think That I Shall Never See…”


There might be something more wonderous on this planet than trees, but I haven’t seen it.

Trees Are The Best

Longtime friends of mine know that I think pretty strongly that Joyce Kilmer got it right with that poem we all learned in childhood: “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree….” I don’t connect to the theological elements of that little poem, but as for the sense of wonder and joy about trees? Count me in.

I have long thought that if an alien space craft were to scoop me up and demand that I show them one wonderous thing that made our planet worth saving, I would unfailingly show them a tree and talk about why they are so wonderful. I am confident I would save our planet by doing so.

For me, that appreciation came early. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of passing large amounts of time cradled in the upper branches of a large oak tree in our back yard. I felt I could see the world up there. The cooler, clean air and pleasant isolation were bonus factors. I never outgrew the thought of climbing any substantial tree I see. We belong up there!

We all love trees in the Fall, with their amazing color displays, and we enjoy the first signs of Spring, when the trees begin to again turn green. But I find that while there is much about Winter I could do without, I love how it exposes the fine filigree and great strength that is otherwise hidden from us by foliage. It is a unique form of beauty that deserves our attention on any Winter’s day. The more you look, the more engrossing they are. This is sheer beauty that also happens to show a survival design par excellence.

How Do Trees Help the World? Let Us Count The Ways

The effect of trees on urban areas is well documented, in both practical and spiritual terms. We know they improve aesthetics, help clean the air, provide nesting sites for birds, squirrels and others, and lowers the ambient temperature. My dog would add that they provide spots that demand sniffing as we walk past.

Recent studies have shown even more profound effects in urban areas. Studies comparing urban areas show consistently that otherwise similar poor neighborhoods have markedly different crime rates depending on how many trees they have. What the causative factor may be, other than the aforementioned cooling and calming effects, we do not yet know. We do know the relationship seems more than coincidental.

I recently enjoyed the opportunity to take a guided forest meditative hike. This is an activity the Japanese have been doing for some time, with solid evidence that participants experience significant and wide-ranging health (mental, emotional, and physical) benefits. Our outing took what normally would have been about a 30-minute walk in the forest and turned it into 4 hours of experiencing the forest, especially the trees. I cannot recommend enough doing one of these. It is a unique way of connecting with nature. You can learn more about this practice at https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/17/536676954/forest-bathing-a-retreat-to-nature-can-boost-immunity-and-mood

Most of us are aware that climate change is accelerating, with disastrous results on the near horizon. Scientists are struggling to find ways to blunt the advance of climate change. This is no easy task given the lack of political will to make major steps. But one group of scientists has pointed out that for all the complexity of potential technological solutions, there may be a simpler, reliable solution at hand. Plant trees. A lot of them. Everywhere we can. It almost sounds too good to be true, but the case is compelling.  As is the notation that solutions involving trees garner less than 3% of spending for climate change remediation yet could provide over 35% of the solution. Read all about it at


Enjoy! Pass it On

Let’s close with a human celebration of the joy trees bring us. A few months ago, I stumbled across a Facebook Group that focuses on big and ancient tress. It is a closed group, but easy to join. Many members are scientists with training in the field, but it appears most are just people who are in awe of trees. They look for outstanding examples and share the photos and stories with the group. I have seen inputs from children to senior citizens, on every continent on the planet except Antarctica. It is a terrific site to visit. It almost single handedly makes it worth sticking with Facebook at least for a bit longer. If you are interested, go on to Facebook and in the Search window enter “Big Tree Hunters ” or “World’s Largest Trees.” You are in for a treat.

Want to be dazzled still more? Check out two short TED talks, one on how trees communicate with each other (https://www.ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other )

and one focusing on the largest and oldest trees in the world (https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_preston_on_the_giant_trees ).

Both are wondrous to behold.

Thanks for reading this. Now go outside and hug a tree. Tomorrow, plant one. Think you may not live to see it grow to maturity? So what? It is your gift to the future, and a fine gift it would be. We all thank you.

Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (https://agentsofreason.com). Let’s grow our circle.





5 replies to “I Think That I Shall Never See…”

  1. Thanks for this. A little more tree worshipping would be a good thing. There’s an internet meme that says “If trees provided WiFi, everyone would plant enough of them in ten years to end global warming. Sadly, they only provide the oxygen we need to breathe (and they regulate the climate).” I’m sure there’s a lesson about Maslow’s hierarchy in this.

  2. Bill –

    Great post !!!
    Sandra and I share your love of trees.

    I have been aware for some time that scientists discovered trees communicate. More recently I read a book that you may find as delightful as I on trees communicating. The book is “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate— Discoveries From a Secret World” by Peter Wohlleben. I have the book and you may borrow if desired.

    Quote I read somewhere states the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. On personal note, Sandi and I still have a small farm in southern Indiana bought in 1976. Previous owners for many years grew tobacco and some corn. We decided we wanted a Tree Farm. Thus is 1977 we began planting trees, one to two thousand seedlings a year until we ran out of land. I planted over 7,000 trees all by hand with planting bar. Oldest trees are over 40 years old and many marketable. But … they will not be cut while we have ownership or in my lifetime. I don’t want tables and chairs made out of trees I know as “Tom, George, etc. Yes, I talk to my trees.

    Again, loved your post.
    Mel Skiles

    • Great stuff, Mel. Thank you. Love the “best time to plant” quote. I will be using that one for sure. Yes, the Secret Life of Trees is a fine read. Several people sent me emails along the same lines. I should have mentioned it; thanks for bringing it forward. Say hey to your trees for me.

  3. Bill, Barbara Walters was criticized for asking interviewees,”if you could be a tree, what would you be?” Think it has great insight especially after your latest blog.
    Personally I think our Star Magnolias are a great tree: never ever without something on their branches, no matter what season!!
    Keep on touching good concepts.

    • Oh, I had not heard the Barbara Walters story. You are so right; that was actually an insightful question. Now I shall have to consider how I would answer that!

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