The Gift of Trees at the Motherhouse
By Martha Alderson (for the Farm and Land Committee of the Motherhouse Coordinating Board with information from Susan Classen)
‘So much is unfolding that must complete its gesture.Denise Levertov
‘So much is in bud.’
The last lines from this poem, “Beginners” by Denise Levertov, tell of possibility and promise. So much is in bud! The new trees at the Loretto Motherhouse are symbols of the possibility and promise — of the trees themselves, of course, but also of new ideas and continuing mission of the Motherhouse. Although the trees were “in bud” when this article was begun, they have likely leafed out or blossomed by the time Interchange arrives. Still there is unfolding to complete as we plan forward.
Spring brings many buds, some flowering, such as the redbud and dogwood, and some just showing promise of luscious green leaves or blossoms to come. In spring, trees put their energy into new growth rather than into their root systems. We are lucky, above ground, to witness this new growth. November and December are much better times than spring to plant trees because the roots have a chance to settle in when the trees are dormant.
We know that trees are a major source of carbon sequestration. Loretto’s carbon offset fund supports the planting and maintenance of trees at the Motherhouse, promoting carbon sequestration through native plantings. The fund was established in honor of Anthony Mary Sartorius, a great respecter of and supporter of trees. (To contribute to the carbon offset fund, go here.)
Carbon sequestration captures and stores carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide, which in turn aids in reducing climate change.
In some circumstances, trees are too large for a site that requires stable soil and shelter for wildlife. In this case, we provide native shrubs that serve the purpose.
There are new trees at the Motherhouse, many gifts in honor or in memory of others. These new trees are native ones that provide shelter and food for wildlife. Some of our Motherhouse trees are not native but are still revered. For example, the beautiful gingko tree in front of the church is a non-native tree that does not provide shelter or food but one that grows well in Kentucky. A native oak tree, on the other hand, supports over 500 different species of caterpillar — which will provide birds with food. (A single nest of baby chickadees will eat from 5,000 to 10,000 caterpillars before they leave the nest!) So, we will enjoy and protect the gingko tree but make sure that the new trees and the majority of our other trees support the broader ecosystem.
In addition to sequestering carbon, trees also have been found to provide an improvement on mental and physical health. Studies have shown that when students have access to trees and shrubs, their test scores and graduation rates increase. Employed adults show increased employee morale as well as an increase in job efficiency and job satisfaction. Also, the benefits extend beyond our brains. Trees can be calming for our physical selves as well. Patients with views of trees from their hospital windows tend to have lower blood pressure and require less pain medication. Trees have an important role in our physical health as well as our mental health. (See this article.)
Besides the trees shown in the images with this article, others given include a blackgum tree from Paulette Peterson for Marian McAvoy’s birthday and a cherry bark oak in honor of Eileen Custy given by Michael Bickett.
We currently are making plans to establish a grove of trees on campus as a way both of increasing the number of trees and also of decreasing the need for mowing. It is not too soon to be thinking about someone you might want to honor with a special tree in the new grove. (Write to Susan Classen.) This not only lends promise and possibility to the Motherhouse land itself but also to the plans that are always afoot for enhancing the lives of residents and (eventually) visitors.
Let us continue to honor the trees, the honorees and the persistence of the belief that “so much is in bud” in our lives!