I drive a green convertible Mini Cooper with the license plate “TREEHGR”. A lot of people like that plate and they smile when they see it. And then there are those who scowl because they believe that I’m against harvesting trees and the forest industry of Maine. I always hope that they will be to start a conversation with me. I show them that I often carry a professional model chainsaw (chaps, helmets and gloves) in my Mini.
Loving trees means deciding who to keep and who needs to go and as a “treehugger.” I hug them for hiking support, to keep them for future harvest and possible wildlife, and before I saw them down. Everyone needs a hug.
My husband I own a 1000+ acre forest. As a Mainer whose great grandparents relocated from Ireland to Maine for the forest industry, I have wandered in Maine forests my entire life. So when my husband and I decided to purchase a large harvested parcel, I was beside myself with excitement. Since I grew up a very poor street kid in Bangor, the fact that I even owned a tree delivered me great joy.
See, when I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to be a forester. That was the late seventies and women were not encouraged to be foresters. In addition, due to my mom’s mental health issues and my need to rear my younger sister, I left that quest after my freshman year; switching to a more woman friendly profession. After obtaining a dual degree in anthropology/English, I worked for 10 years in retail management and then decided that becoming a licensed clinical social worker would be a great idea. And it was. And for 20+ years, I was a children’s mental health clinician manager. Then we purchased a forest.
I think the most amusing thing we’ve done in our forest was to purchase 20 balsam fir saplings and plant them in our forest. My forest is primarily a spruce/fir forest, but at that time, I didn’t realize that balsam fir is not considered a tree of choice unless you want to be a Christmas tree farm. Clearly, I had no idea about managing a forest.
So guess what I did? I left my social work profession and went back to forestry classes at UMaine. After 30 years, I’m back doing what I wanted to do in the beginning. And I so enjoy those classes. I learn how to manage my forest for wildlife, potential harvests, and making the right decisions on which tree to keep and which tree needs to be removed.
As I drive about in my Mini Cooper, I smile. I know that people love to make assumptions and those assumptions are often incorrect. I certainly have made some foolish assumptions (like balsam is the best tree to plant in your forest). But I hope that both me and my forest will push limits, help people ask questions, and provide positive assets to our planet. And in the meantime, I’ll just hug trees.