Walter Farquharson, Moderator 1990-92, encourages the people of Living Skies Regional Council to help celebrate Arbor Week in Saskatchewan. The province inaugurated this focus on trees three years ago in response to a request from nature groups, and Walter believes churches have a unique community contribution they can bring. The week runs annually the last full week in May (Saturday to Sunday) and celebrates Arbor Day on the Friday of that week. Have a look at his reflection and invitation below. As an additional resource, this is an editorial Walter wrote for the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association, and you have his permission to use it as you wish. Go forth and hug, plant, or save a tree!

Churches and Arbor Day: locally generated, locally appropriate

He writes, “I would love to see our church, through the Region, encouraging local churches to take on an Arbor Day/Arbor Week program. Those of us promoting Arbor Day see this as an opportunity to encourage people of all ages, acting individually and in whatever collections of people they can motivate to take on Arbor Day and Arbor Week programs – locally generated, locally appropriate.

Such projects may be a celebration of the ways in which trees can help save our planet and contribute greatly to personal and social health. At best they will draw together intergenerational and cross-cultural groups. Projects will span awareness-raising, advocacy, perhaps the adoption of an area of local habitat (a slough or marsh, a patch of native grasslands), the planting of a shrub or tree, a shelter belt, a grove.

A local two block (or equivalent) pilgrimage/ walkabout could for the framework for a worship service or be an “after-service or before service” participatory act.  Trevor Herriot’s The Economy of Sparrows would be, in my opinion, a great book for a church or community book club, (or even one time gathering to discuss) that could open hearts and minds to issues of environment and ecological concern.

Groups like SOS Trees, Nature Sask, YFBTA, will have suggestions but it is local initiative, local planning, local celebration, local exploration, local doing that we want to see happening.    We have co-hosted events with Trevor Herriot, the most recent one being when he introduced The Economy of Sparrows to a gathering at the Yorkton Public Library.   In April 2024 we will host a variety of programs in the area when William (Bill) Schroeder will talk about trees and introduce his important book Trees Against the Wind: the story of prairie shelterbelts.”

Healthy Trees – Healthier People

Sun shining through the trunks and lower branches of a forest.My life-partner, Joan, was an unapologetic tree hugger.  She had her favorite trees and asserted that she felt freer, less burdened, happier and energized, whenever she took a few minutes to hug a tree, thanking it and blessing it and, through it, thanking the universe, absorbing and sharing life itself.    I was not so much a tree hugger but I loved sitting with my back to a tree trunk – just being – and being “with”.

Most of us have taken shelter under or near trees.  We’ve been awed by a tree’s beauty, its sturdiness and sometimes its perseverance.  We’ve celebrated trees that marked special places and held special memories.  We’ve painted and photographed trees, sung about them, carved pieces of them.  We’ve climbed them, built tree houses and swings in them, delighted in the scents and sounds of them, grieved the loss of them.

Many of my best memories of home and family connect with planting trees, enjoying the spring blossoms and the autumn fruit of trees, the smell of wood burning in campfire or fireplace, the welcome trees provided for our feathered and furry friends.

Folk lore and treasured stories have celebrated the healing power of trees and their intrinsic value to individuals and communities.  Today an increasing body of scientific exploration, experimentation, observing and analysing, add weight and data to support that older “inner” knowledge.

Exposure to trees (even in film) can reduce post-surgical and medical hospital stays, peel days off treatment for addictions and depressions, improve learning motivation and alertness, reduce potential for re-offending among the imprisoned, actually increase the probability of people picking up trash, aiding a stranger in distress, giving to a charity or volunteering for service in some healing activities for persons, communities, and environments.

People exposed to an environment enriched by trees regularly report higher levels of energy, sense of wellbeing and belonging, hopefulness, concern for others and the world, ability to cope with change and loss.  All of this – and a lot more – because of, and through, trees.

It is great to think about these things, great to celebrate trees and to get involved in Arbor Week and Arbor Day.  It seems harder for us as a society to use this knowledge in terms of how we design buildings, construct curriculums and programs, shape our personal and community life choices. Perhaps if we all hugged more trees the inspiration to learn and act upon what we learn will take root, thrive and produce much fruit, fruit that will last!

Walter Farquharson December 8, 2023.