All I can see are trees when I look across my neighborhood from my backyard!
I would spend a lot of time outdoors as a kid, since our house was very tiny and our yard was disproportionately large. The giant trees were my constant companions, and because they were constant I never really thought about them, but if I did it was often in annoyance. For example, when I would play with my dog, she would always disappear behind our large pine tree and I’d have to brave the dirt and bugs to go find her. Or, anytime I wanted to walk down off our deck, I would have to dodge the huge, heavy black walnut grenades that the squirrels would chuck at me from their perch in our tree. Because of all this, I never really realized how important trees were to my mental and physical well-being until I moved away.
The mischievous Tia, who, even at the age of twelve, still runs behind trees and dashes through shrubs to avoid going back inside.
I decided to move into the downtown core during my time at University. I chose an apartment on a very busy street, with no courtyard and just a tiny flat grass lawn. While I was in the apartment, I was always so warm from the direct sunlight, with no trees to block the rays. While I was out of the apartment, I found everything so loud and dirty with no trees to act as noise buffers or to filter the polluted air. You may think I was just so used to living in a quiet area that this was a huge shock, but the truth is my childhood home was less than a block away from Yonge Street. The difference is that in my childhood home, the large amount of trees and shrubs that stood between us and the major street made me feel like I was an entire world away from the cars, pedestrians and busy shops.
Besides all the tangible things I missed about trees once I moved downtown, there was also something else. I would take the subway home every weekend for family dinners, and something happened when I walked up the steps from the station. As soon as I saw green, I felt better. And as I walked closer and heard the birds nesting in the trees and smelled the flowers blooming on them, I felt completely relaxed, realizing just at that moment how tense I had been all week.
My backyard is so surrounded by noise buffering vegetation, that despite my proximity to Yonge Street, all I can hear are birds chirping!
A birdbath sits in my backyard, and I try to keep it full of water now that I’ve learned how it can contribute to Backyard Biodiversity.
I moved home to finish my degree after two years in the downtown core, and I have to say, the trees were a huge part of that decision. I now know that to be the best student, employee, and person that I can be, I need to be in an environment with many trees, as strange as that may sound. I imagine that a lot of people feel this way, even though they may not realize it. I hope that governments and individuals start to prioritize the natural environment when planning and building, as I know first-hand how being surrounded by nature can contribute to happier, healthier individuals and communities in turn.
Rachel is the Marketing and Education Assistant at LEAF.
Photos by Rachel Marcus.