Tag Archives: Arbor day

Planting Trees on Arbor Day, 2018

eco clubWe were lucky it was a warm day. Earlier this month, we had several snowfalls in Cedar Rapids, and it seemed the ground would be pretty frosty.

But a tree planting event was scheduled for Arbor Day, today, and as luck would have it, the weather has changed. I know, Iowa, right?

Anyway, the MMU ECO Club coordinated the tree planting events, bringing 17 trees and a DNR expert to campus.

The original plans were to start at 8 a.m., but the club wisely changed that to a 10:30 a.m. start, assuming that the club and volunteers might get the trees into the ground by the planned lunch at 12:30 p.m.


Zachary Ceresa, president of MMU Eco Club, getting ready for tree planting.

Indeed, the planting went quickly. There were probably 5 or more volunteers per tree, and although tree planting can be work, if you only have to plant one and four other people get turns at the shovel, it’s a fairly quick, fun process.

I’m a tree person. My tiny yard is virtually a forest due to all of the trees my wife and I have planted—I’m not even sure what the current tree census is at casa de Sheller, but it is quite a few.


Rachael Murtaugh, Mount Mercy director of sustainability. She uses dandelions in all of her decorating.

And I have always enjoyed tree planting. It seems like an intuitively generous act, in a way, in that you’re trying to benefit the future—both your personal future and the future that goes on beyond you. Not all trees last that long, but many might—the group I was part of planted a sturdy 6-foot oak that, I hope, will be around for many years.

The Eco Club is interested because trees create a cascade of positive environmental impacts. I was interested in planting partly because it’s just soothing for the soul.

The day was beautiful and the volunteers plentiful. It was a fun way to mark the spring.


DNR expert teaches us how to plant trees.

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What Kind of Movie is Your Tree?


A cardinal objects to invader. A scene from "Gone With the Wind."

The Gazette had a fine editorial this morning, extolling the virtues of trees on Arbor Day.

That put me in a treeish mood (Joy, I’ve coined another word for you, at least it looks like an adjective, I didn’t type “treely”). Not that it takes much to make me feel treely happy (that time I did). For no particular reason, I was also thinking about Hollywood, maybe to avoid thinking about royal weddings.

Most of the trees in my yard (there are several dozen) are still sleepy, just waking up, but I show some Arbor Day images here and note the tree’s movie genre or acting avatar. I don’t know why I love trees so much, except it’s such a strong urge that I can’t understand people who A) either don’t like trees or B) are picky about the trees they like.


A versatile actor, experienced, not flashy. John Reilly?

We had a young weeping willow in our yard, until it died, and a friend of one of our kids noted that was probably a good think because willows are “messy” trees. While he has a point, it was a totally pointless point. Sure, they drop branches—but they’re beautiful. It’s their job to look pretty and they do it well, it’s our job to clean up around them before we mow—and quit complaining about it, because if we look up we’ll see spreading yellow-green arches of branches that will give us transcendent joy.

Young Maple.

This is not John. John is 80 years old and 100 feet tall, this is a 5 year old maple, about 8 feet tall. In an ensemble cast with an older oak behind it. Meg Tilly in "The Big Chill."

If a willow were a movie, it would be whimsical and full of fun surprises. Sort of like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” A mature willow across the street from us in California had branches that formed a natural bench, which you had to climb to reach, but it was worth it. In my memory, it was 100 feet high, but I was only 4 feet high, so I suspect the bench was probably 8 feet off the ground.

Today, I was photographing the waking trees in my yard and thinking about their personalities and what kind of actor or movie each would be.

Wil Wheaton in "Stand by Me" is the baby oak in the foreground. Big oak in background is Richard Dreyfuss from the same movie.

The birch is a bit stuffy, entertaining but slow moving, not in any hurry. It’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

The weeping cherry tree is flashy and exuberant, but not heavy on content. It’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The tulip is tall, a bit scary and yet, oddly entertaining. It’s the most recent “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

“Lord of the Rings?” Majestic, spectacular, larger than life? Oak or Walnut.


Hawthorn. It's cute, but watch out, it has thorns, too. Sigourney Weaver in "Alien."

Walnut, to me, is a defining tree. I love them. Many people hate them for the mess they make 3 weeks of the year. But for the other 49, they are ballerina trees, twisted in interesting shapes, with the most perfect foliage available in this climate, attractive clumps of narrow leaves that make dappled sunshine. They kill other plants so that they can dominate a region, and that’s one reason Audrey has won this fight—there are no walnut trees in our back yard. But still, you don’t find nicer looking trees year round than a native black walnut. Like LOR, it’s both gnarly and pretty at the same time.


Hmmm. A delicate character, beautiful but not long lived, this is Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge."

While not in our yard, many walnut trees have been planted by someone, some “Lord of the Rings” fan, in the woods behind our fence …

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