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Arbor Day

When I was in elementary school, my class read a story about a little boy whose family takes him to visit the last tree on earth. At the time, I was filled with terror at the thought of a world without trees. Although I was unacquainted with the technicalities of such a loss (i.e., oxygen depletion, global warming, etc.), I was somehow aware that it could be utterly devastating. Fortunately there's Arbor Day, a holiday created to acknowledge one of our most important natural resources by allowing communities to gather to plant new trees.

The celebration of Arbor Day began in Nebraska. Originally, the state was a vast, flat landscape with very little vegetation. Pioneers soon realized that trees were a necessary part of everyday life, providing food, shelter, shade, soil conservation and fuel, as well as beauty. Nebraskans planted more than a million trees on April 10, 1872, to commemorate the first Arbor Day. The occasion fulfilled the dream of Julius Sterling Morton, a newspaper editor and former governor of the Nebraska Territory who was an ardent proponent of forestation and lobbied for years for a holiday to encourage the planting of trees.

Florida officially observed Arbor Day on Friday, April 30, and if you forgot to honor this holiday (or just now became aware that such a holiday existed), well, you're in luck. Arbor Day is one of those flexible holidays that is really set up to coincide with the best tree-planting weather, anytime from January to May, so there's still time to show your tree appreciation.

Locally, you can observe the holiday by going to the closest nursery and picking up a few trees to plant. Or, you can join the Arbor Day Foundation at www.arborday.org and get 10 trees for free. Or, if you're a resident of Clearwater, you can head down to the Public Service Complex (1650 N. Arcturas Ave.) on Saturday, May 8, at 9 a.m. and enjoy a ceremony followed by a tree giveaway (two per family). If you do not have Internet access and are unwilling or unable to drive, step outside, find a tree, give it a good squeeze and relax for a few moments in its shade. —Leilani Polk

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