Walking through Summerstown Forest this month I was reminded of the richness of nature – especially the wonder and the value of yearly shedding of leaves.
Many of us are busy this time of year, doing what we call ‘cleaning up’ our gardens, which includes raking leaves. Some of us are even out with a noisy leaf blower the moment a stray leaf hits the ground. In our western culture, cleanliness is next to godliness so we have convinced ourselves that we can improve on nature by tidying up. Unfortunately we always fall short on trying to compete with nature. In the extreme, in this attempt to improve on nature, large tracts of forest are cut down and replaced with vast areas of suburban lawns.
In the forest, we get to witness the beauty and the art of trees, all the variety of small understory plants, spring flowers, fungi and mushrooms of all types and shapes. We get to observe small creatures like snakes, caterpillars and salamanders who make their home in the deep leaf litter that carpets the ground each fall.
We can save ourselves so much effort by creating areas in our garden where the leaves can be left alone to do what they do best in nature – provide the rich natural fertilizer that renews the soil and creates a home for plants and critters.
On a grander scale, we can encourage small, densely developed housing that preserves as much forested land as possible. This not only creates places of beauty that requires little or no maintenance but it also provides the much-needed lungs for urban areas, creating oxygen, cooling and resistance to periods of flooding and drought. (Developers take note!)
Recent research has also shown the healing properties of forests. Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of many books and films on trees, says in her book, The Sweetness of a Simple Life: “I believe forests produce a tidal wave of medicines that ebb and flow with the seasons. They perform a vital scrubbing or detergent effect in the atmosphere, keeping it clean so that we can breathe the oxygen that trees produce so efficiently.”
Beresford-Kroeger calls herself a renegade scientist, because she tries to bring together aboriginal healing, Western medicine and botany to advocate an unusual role for trees.
She favors reforesting cities and rural areas with trees according to the medicinal, environmental, nutritional, pesticidal and herbicidal properties that science has claimed for them.
So we need those forests and their leaves. Let’s look at them in a new light.
Check out films and books by Beresford-Kroeger for more information and be sure to keep up to date through our mail list at www.transitioncornwall.com