Thursday, March 15, 2012
Can One Make a Difference?
The main character, a shepherd named Elzeard Bouffier, decides to plant one hundred acorns a day in a desolate land - long deforested and gone to waste. He admits in the story that he had planted 100,000 acorns so far, in which 20,000 sprouted, and 10,000 of those would probably not make it. Indeed, the other 10,000 would live on - along with thousands of others he would eventually plant. The man planted because he felt the earth was “dying for want of trees.”
The narrator, who befriends the man while hiking the dry barren region, witnesses his commitment to this job, which is done alone and without pay; he is duly impressed. After spending a day with the shepherd, he leaves to continue in his journey and eventually serves in WWI; the shepherd and his tree planting fades from his memory. After a decade, the narrator finally returns to the area to hike and is amazed at the 10 year old oaks - tall and thriving. He also finds other species of trees (beeches) growing in the valleys that were planted by the old man. Water is running in the once-dry cracked creek beds now lined with willows. The harsh winds that once ravaged the hills are softened into breezes by the lush vegetation. Since the water is flowing again and the trees are sheltering the winds, humans are making a life for themselves in this region. It is a magnificent tale and timely with today’s global environmental issues.
Spring has come to Colorado – it is time to think about planting. Maybe an organic vegetable and butterfly garden and a few trees that will share their fruit or shade. A bit of work spent preparing the ground now for vegetable starts that will be planted in May and give back tenfold when they are harvested. The trees will grow and give back in later years. I am off to the back yard to be part of slow but satisfying process of working the earth. I am hopeful I can make a difference.
Giono, Jean. The Man Who Planted Trees. Chelsea, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1985. Print.