‘... A poem lovely as a tree’

A reader gets on his green soap­box to make a point about the need for na­ture in our con­crete-filled lives.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion - By LOKE SIEW HING

IMAG­INE a house com­pound with cold con­crete walls and a porch floor all tiled up. It makes you feel hot, like a bor­ing piece of arid land. How­ever, hang a pot of ferns, scat­ter a few pots of colour­ful or green plants around the place and you will bring life to a once un­invit­ing com­pound. An amaz­ing trans­for­ma­tion through mere plants and shrubs.

Years ago when a de­vel­oper wanted to build two blocks of high-rise apart­ments in my hous­ing estate, there was a storm of protests.

To the res­i­dents, the estate’s small hill, with its green­ery, was the green lung in their neigh­bour­hood. In fact, the hill was a catch­ment area.

Even­tu­ally, though, progress took prece­dence over preser­va­tion, and more apart­ments came up. The price we have to pay is flood­ing in low-ly­ing ar­eas, higher tem­per­a­tures, and more birds lit­ter­ing our walls and drive­ways with their drop­pings since they no longer have a nat­u­ral habi­tat to live in. Trees not only cool our en­vi­ron­ment, they also ab­sorb noise and dust (not to men­tion bird drop­pings).

Ev­ery morn­ing, I am awak­ened by the chirp­ing of birds, for which I am thank­ful. I also see squir­rels in the trees. Trees pro­vide good shel­ter for birds and small an­i­mals.

We work hard to main­tain the tree out­side our house. From Jan­uary to March ev­ery year we have to sweep away the co­pi­ous amount of leaves dur­ing the tree’s shed­ding sea­son. We have to sweep three times a day be­cause the leaves keep fall­ing con­tin­u­ously.

But this is a small price to pay for this pre­cious tree that pro­vides much needed shade for our car when­ever we park it out­side.

Once, the work­ers of the town coun­cil trimmed too many branches from it. We planted a bird’s nest fern to make up for the heavy loss of fo­liage. Now the tree looks very unique with a big fern stuck to it. More im­por­tantly it pro­vides good shade. From an aes­thetic point of view, it is a unique de­sign.

This time of year brings the small leaves and the dry flow­ers of the rain tree, which lit­ter our roads and our com­pounds. The rain tree keeps us busy ev­ery day. The yel­low flame tree sheds more flow­ers than leaves. The flow­ers get stuck to the road when­ever it rains. Yet we have to pre­serve th­ese trees for their aes­thetic value and shade.

At the end of my road there is a small play­ground dot­ted with trees. It is a cool area where res­i­dents can en­joy ex­er­cis­ing and walk­ing around the play­ground. Most morn­ings they come here to breathe in the fresh air. The cool air is also in­vig­o­rat­ing. Some come in the evening with their chil­dren.

Some of th­ese play­ground trees, like the angsana, the pu­lai, the weep­ing wil­low and cab­bage trees, have taken years to grow to their ma­jes­tic heights. Some, with their vi­brant colours like the flame of the forest, the yel­low shower, the African tulip and the pur­ple jacaranda beau­tify our en­vi­ron­ment.

The pink trum­pet trees have even been likened to the cherry blos­som trees of Ja­pan. When they are full of pink and white blooms, they are a cap­ti­vat­ing sight to be­hold.

Each tree has its own form, beauty, and char­ac­ter. Sim­i­larly, ev­ery plant has its own unique de­sign, shape, and beauty. All of them re­flect the creativ­ity of God. Think of the dif­fer­ent types of be­go­nias and maranatha or prayer plants. The va­ri­ety is just mind-bog­gling. When­ever I visit a nurs­ery I am so smit­ten by all the beauty and di­ver­sity dis­played by the trees, shrubs and plants.

Some­one sug­gested plant­ing a tree with your ashes when you leave this world. I think it is a very good sug­ges­tion. Even in death you can pro­vide beauty, shade, and shel­ter. You will be a bless­ing to many around you af­ter you are long gone.

Whether you love trees or not, I think we should ap­pre­ci­ate their use­ful­ness and im­por­tance. Then we will au­to­mat­i­cally want to pre­serve them as part of our nat­u­ral her­itage.

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‘I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.’ Joyce Kilmer’s Trees.

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