Choosing to plan not for our tomorrow, but others’

Putting out “fires” can take up the better part of a day. But it's important to not let that prevent long-term planning for ourselves as well as our community

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July 5, 2024 - 3:20 PM

We plant trees not necessarily for our enjoyment, but that of future generations. GARY TOU/UNSPLASH

Like combing through a child’s hair looking for lice, we’ve been culling our junipers for bagworms.

Once queasy, I’m now inured to culling the worms by hand, much like the parent who acts as if it’s the most common thing in the world to pluck away at sticky nits. To divert my attention I listen to podcasts or chat with my husband, Brian, about anything but the task at hand.

And though we don’t need a fine-tooth comb, we, too, are methodical in going row by row, careful not to overlook a single branch.

So, yes, we forgot to spray last spring for bagworms. And I know there’s a difference, because last year this is not how we spent our summer evenings.

It’s only by living in a place long enough that you know what plants and trees thrive best. And by paying attention. 

As a memento to my 15 years in Holland, Mich., before returning to Iola, I planted tulips around a lamppost. Just as they were reaching their glory, a deer one morning had them for breakfast, leaving a stand of stems. 

In a fit of frustration, I dug the bulbs up swearing from hence forward I would plant only deer-resistant flowers. And yes, it seems they care not for daisies and asters.

I’m embarrassed to admit, however, that perhaps the tulips sacrificed their lives for naught. Ever since, the stray bulbs with the courage to emerge have escaped a passing deer’s notice.

As for trees, we’ve set the table for local beavers with a selection of soft woods: aspen, willows and cottonwoods.

Once again, I let sentimentality dictate the menu, by wanting to replicate the towering cottonwoods and wispy willows of my youth and the aspens from summer vacations in Colorado.

My husband Brian’s choices are no better, favoring fruit trees. Turns out deer like those as well as tulips.

Sometimes the choices are determined more by what you can’t plant, than by what you can.

The irony that it’s only in my senior years that I’ve become so concerned about trees is not lost on me. No matter what we plant, we’ll likely never be able to enjoy their shade. That 8-foot aspen is five years old. 

But the same can be said for many of our decisions.

The efforts to develop Lehigh Portland State Park were done with the long-term vision of what it will mean for future generations. A year out from the park’s designation, all we see is barren ground. 

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