"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today." -Chinese proverb
The most rewarding and fulfilling Beautify CNMI activity is to plant a tree; There is something about planting a tree that connects you to the rest of Nature and Humanity. I experience this connection when I drive down the road with friends who have helped me plant trees and point out the exact trees they planted every time we pass them.
"There's the 1000th tree we planted in 2006."
"Remember how hard it was raining when we planted this stretch of trees?"
"My tree is doing well, isn't it? I stop by every once in a while and sprinkle some fertilizer on it."
The life of a single tree can span generations of humans. Take for example the many fruit trees at my father's house planted by my grandfather. What an amazing connection to the past to think that when a coconut is opened to feed the chickens or when a ripe mango is enjoyed, it is in essence my grandfather's hand still providing for his family.
My favorite example of what it means to plant a tree, which I regularly use as a metaphor for the work of Beautify CNMI, is the planting of a single breadfruit tree.
The breadfruit tree that is planted today will grow several years before it is able to produce fruit, but it will immediately provide beauty and shade. When it begins to produce fruit, it produces fruit in abundance, providing for families and fanihi alike. The tree has other uses as well. Bark can be used to make rope and clothing and the sap can be used to caulk a canoe. Decades later when that breadfruit has grown into a mature tree dominating the forest canopy, it can be carved into a canoe, connecting us to the rest of Micronesia.
All this from the simple act of planting a single tree.
I hope that one day my grandchildren will hike through the Laolao area hillsides and reminisce on how their forbearers turned a denuded, barren hillside into a rich, diverse forest.
Thank you to the more than 100 volunteers who came out on a Sunday morning to help carry and plant tree saplings up on a hard to reach hillside and thank you to all the community members who donated coconuts saplings for our planting. This was truly a community effort and shows once again what can be accomplished when we work together.