Sounds of Peace

When birds stop singing. . .


“Across some stretches every tree had been felled by gunfire or cut down intentionally.  No bird song was heard, no birds remained.”*

It is comforting to sit in a garden and hear the songs of birds. The tall trees provide an orchestra hall for the birds to welcome the morning.  I am the audience enjoying the notes sung by the chorus of mockingbirds, cactus wrens, grackles and doves.

May 7th is National Public Garden day and our gardens represent so much to be celebrated.  2010 is only the 2nd celebration of National Public Garden Day. The American Public Garden Association is the sponsor of this event.  (Formerly the  American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, the name changed in 2006).  The APGA’s vision advocates for public gardens to become vital to people’s appreciation and understanding of the irreplaceable value of plants.  Imagine our landscapes gone, destroyed in disaster or war, or a civil war between people once living side by side enjoying the bird songs.

This has happened again and again through out history,  In the mid 90’s I read an essay in Wildbird Magazine about life in Bosnia after the war.  The images haunt me still today.  A civil war raged for three years and as the soldiers fought the people struggled to survive.  Without fuel they turned to the trees, taking first the old, dead and diseased to provide for warmth, to cook their food.  As the siege continued the trees of the nearby  forests were cut.  The long cold winter, and near starvation the people turned to the trees in the town, then to the tree in their garden.

When spring came there were no bird songs.  The trees gone, the birds had no place to perch to sing their songs.  The birds were forced to fly away.    The cost of war in lives and treasure is counted and reported yet the cost of war in trees and plants is often overlooked.  Celebrating our gardens and the importance of plants, trees and tranquil moments is indeed something to treasure.

Find time to celebrate our gardens, public and private this month of May.  Consider dialogue on the complex ideas we face as a country conducted among the plants and trees with the song of birds added to the conversation. It seems things are going to be different in our communities. How we deal with the changes will require listening, thinking and imagining.  Where but a garden to do such important work?

From where I sit under the big olive trees in my garden, looking out to the trees on the golf course, to the trees in the gardens of the homes on the other side are more trees than I could begin to count.  Is there an idea so disagreeable among our citizens that we could lose our songbirds?

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