For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
April 9, 1997 - Arbor Day
Shortly after I got out of college but before I found gainful employment, I began to have the most vivid dreams you can imagine. In every one of them, I was called to the desert, a place I had never been.
So I packed my meager belongings into a backpack and bedroll (total weight: 14 pounds), and stuck out my thumb on old Route 66. (This was 20 years ago. I wouldn't recommend it now.)
Two days later, I found myself coming down from the New Mexico mountains into the Sonoran desert at sunrise. I was awed.
The land looked utterly familiar, yet the colors astonished me. At the time, I took my recognition of the place as evidence of reincarnation. Nowadays, I suspect that it looked familiar because like most boomer baby boys, I was raised on black and white westerns -- which also explains why the colors surprised me.
I was particularly fascinated by the saguaro -- the tall green cactus trees, often a century old, stubborn and ungainly, but with a fleeting and fragile flower.
Now, of course, I live midway between Sonoran desert and the Great Lakes. Family situations have called for me to head back to Illinois several times recently.
Now, it's the old deciduous trees of my youth that startle me. "But there are so many TREES," I said over and over to my family. Great gnarled trunks, silhouettes against the twilight. A rustle in the wind that you just don't hear in Douglas County. There are woods in the world, places still and dank; shaded and holy.
Driving back to the browner, more sparse lands of Colorado, I found myself remembering all the time I had spent reading in trees as a child. I can remember losing my place in a book, just to watch the play of shadow leaves on the page. My secret dream as a librarian is to build libraries that make people feel just like that.
So that's the inner significance to one librarian of Arbor Day. But some of you, I know, only concern yourselves with the bottom line of this important American tradition. So consider this passage from a publication called "Update Forestry," by Michigan State University:
"A tree is worth $196,250.00, according to Professor T.M. Das of the University of Calcutta. A tree living for 50 years will generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, control soil erosion and increase soil fertility to the tune of $31,250, recycle $37,500 worth of water and provide a home for animals worth $31,250. This figure does not include the value of the fruits, lumber or the beauty derived from the presence of trees. Just another sensible reason to take care of our trees and participate in Arbor Day planting programs locally."
In short, trees are good for the soul, good for the ecology, and good for the economy.
This year, the Douglas County Arbor Day Committee has events planned not only on April 19, but on several other days this month. I understand that volunteers are still particularly needed for the "RePlumming Plum Creek" project (4/19/97, 9 a.m., call 892-NEWS for more info), and "ReCherrying Cherry Creek" on the same day, same time, same number.
Other contact numbers include: Don Walsh (840-9546) in the Parker area, Em Wilson (792-9734) in Lone Tree (they'll be planting ONE tree -- isn't that great?), Gordon Marsh at 841-2770 ext. 313 for a Ponderosa High School project, Jim Frankenfeld at 791-0430 in Highlands Ranch, Curt Sloan at 470-0140 in the Pinery, Shannon King at 660-1517 for Franktown, Curt Williams at 660-1052 in Castle Rock, and Patty Horan at 688-5242 for Castlewood Canyon.
Further, your gifts are both needed, and tax deductible. Mail them to DCLC/Arbor Day, PO Box 462, Castle Rock CO 80104.