From its very beginning back in 1872, Arbor Day has always been unusual.
Its founder, J. Sterling Morton, described it this way: "Arbor Day is not like other holidays. Each of those reposes in the past. Arbor Day proposes for the future."
It does this by planting.
Planting trees, for starters.
And also by planting ideas.
The need for more trees is ongoing and never-ending. A study by the University of Maryland found that the rate of global tree loss is increasing by roughly 50% per year. In 2016, the earth lost enough trees to cover the country of New Zealand - billions and billions of them.
In the U.S. alone we lose millions of trees every year to drought, disease, insects and wildfire. Sadly, this loss is occurring right when we need trees more than ever to help sequester carbon dioxide emitted through the burning of fossil fuels and to help reduce other forms of pollution.
But the need for trees goes far beyond combating climate change. The ideas that Arbor Day helps plant in the minds of upcoming generations are also hugely important.
Arbor Day promotes the awareness that trees are among our most precious resources, providing clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Without trees and other plants we would not be able to carry on living.
In addition to the critical filtering they provide, we rely on their cellulose for much of our shelter, furniture, cordage and the paper on which we print our books and papers and magazines, as well as much of our legal and commercial correspondence.
When you add to all this the thousands of items now derived from petroleum (which itself derives from plants), it grows clear that our dependency on green things is pushing 100 percent.
Arbor Day also helps us become more aware of the natural beauty that surrounds us, and encourages us to cherish it, as well as add to it. The annual Arbor Day Foundation catalog provides Americans with dozens of species of trees and ornamental shrubs for purchase at reasonable prices, and offers free information regarding their planting and care.
Then, too, the foundation offers citizens the chance to create memorials for loved ones with the planting of dedicated groves of trees in quantities of 30, 45 or 60 trees with the donation of a dollar per tree.
Perhaps most importantly, Arbor Day stresses the awareness that it's up to all of us to care for all the gifts that nature has bestowed on us, and to respect and replenish and protect those gifts in whatever way we're able.
Arbor Day started in Nebraska as a tree-planting holiday and was first celebrated on April 10, 1872, when it was estimated that more than a million trees were planted throughout the state. Since then it's officially become National Arbor Day and been moved to the last Friday in April.
Minnesota has a long and proud history with Arbor Day. It was the fourth state to start celebrating Arbor Day back in 1876. Since then, all 50 states have come on board, and Minnesota has expanded its celebration of trees by proclaiming May as Arbor Month.
Now that winter has given way to spring, why not enlist the aid of a child or grandchild and welcome the growing season by planting a tree?