Monday, April 24, 2017

Can't see the Trees for the Concrete

October 2015, Bank of Chuluut River
As the daughter of a forester, I notice trees. I grew up in the Northwoods of Michigan--our favorite tree to climb was a White Pine on the edge of the field behind our house in the middle of the Pigeon River Country State Forest. I love the smell of evergreen, the vibrant green of a deciduous tree, and the flow of a willow blowing in the wind. I even like the enchanting look of a saguaro cactus in the desert land of the southwest. If you were to flip through my pictures from trips over the years, you'd find a strange assortment of pictures of trees. Yes, that's all, just unique or cool looking trees. I can't explain why I am driven to take them. They touch or speak to something instinctual inside me. They make me feel at ease, at home. 

Tree implanted for ASEM last summer
That said, I want to appreciate the efforts around UB to increase the greenery despite our very short growing season. If I remember correctly, things didn't green-up last year until JUNE. I'm not joking. It took forever to feel surrounded by green; and when it did happen, it was an overnight experience. As if a magician flew over our sprawling metropolis one night and said, "let there be green!" And so it was. 

But I have a serious problem with whomever thinks that trees--some of which are fairly mature--can be planted inside a field of concrete and expect them to flourish and thrive. In the picture to the left you see a large evergreen (I suspect it's a pine of some sort) that was implanted (arrived at the size you see) last summer just before the ASEM Summit. As you can see, there are boards to support them. I assume because we are yet waiting for their roots to take anchor. The supports have been there since installation. Not exactly a beautiful sight--TALL live trees with dead trees holding them up. But worse than this, I want you to see what it looks like where the tree meets the ground. 

The resolution may not be ideal, but I think you can see my point in this picture (right). There is literally NO exposed land around where the tree meets the ground. It is boxed in completely by huge blocks of marble. IF the tree manages to stay alive (questionable), there is no room for it to grow and expand. Well, at least not without breaking up the sidewalk that encases it. I'm left to wonder if the planners of this space (and many others) ever pause to get educated by anyone that knows about trees. How does one go about watering this tree? (I'm confident there is NOT an under-the-marble sprinkler system!) And how in the world is wood springing forth from marble or concrete felt to be beautiful or appealing? Mongolians are known to have a deep affinity for their nature. You can't flip through the channels on cable TV here without catching a Mongolian singer--male and female--decked out in a deel and singing from a forest, a mountaintop, or from the wide open steppe. Everyone looks forward to escapes to the countryside and you will see families or groups of friends sitting on a blanket in the middle of the wide open expanses that surround UB and every other town or city, talking, eating, playing. So I know they love their land (trash is another problem and for another post). I wish we could employ the foresters and landscape architects that KNOW how we could actually have trees flourish in our city. 

Here's another attempt. There is a *small* quadrant of dirt around this one. However, I'm confident it is not living anymore. I didn't bother to take a picture of the actual treetop. It was too sad. 

Sometimes it's difficult to discern if a city tree is living or not. They look almost black in the winter months (basically Nov to March). I'm left to believe that is a byproduct of all the coal smoke/pollution in the air. It makes our snow gray and if the HEPA filter in my apartment is any indicator, yes, the pollution makes our trees black. I can't there a scene in the Lorax where all the trees go black? For some reason that movie comes to mind.

All that to say, I would love for there to be more trees around UB. I'd love for there to be more green spaces. I miss having a natural space to escape to and feel more at ease. And I agree that in modern times people are beginning to suffer from what has been coined "Nature Deficit Disorder." You can investigate that more by checking out this NPR story or the book that it references (which I read years ago with my fellow book club members back in Colorado). So....can someone please help UB plant trees in a way that will actually allow them to grow and thrive? There are people around the world that know what species would do best in our conditions, and how to make it possible. Not just a random shot through the concrete. 

Most of my readers here are also connected with me on Facebook. However, I know I have a few friends and family members that do not want to be in that social media realm. This last week the story of how Zorig and I met was featured in the New York Times' Travel Section, their first ever Love Issue. A friend of my sister sent her the form link, which my sister then sent to me. I figured, Why not? It had a 500 word limit which was tough, but a good challenge. It was an honor to be one of the six entries they published from the prompt/topic. I was moved by all six of them--they were diverse and unique. I'm still wanting to know more about the woman in Paris!! It tickled me that they chose my piece to highlight (See image at Left--quote from me, and opting to use the picture of a ger) when they posted to Facebook. Thanks NYT for sharing my story with a larger world. Love is about both joy and heartbreak. Timing is crucial. Decisions and choices have to be made. Sacrifices are often given. But we must keep the hope of love alive and that is always my wish in sharing our story. 

As always, thanks for reading. 

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