If you look out a window in the San Francisco you will likely see many things: a homeless person, pedestrians, a distant sail on the bay, almost always a restaurant and coffee shop, maybe a bridge, city lights, or from the right vantage point one of the many fine examples of public art, some of which pre-date two massive earthquakes and numerous fires. It’s a beautiful, unique mosaic of a unique city teaming with life.
But look out any window in the city and it is almost guaranteed you will see a tree. Trees dot the city like a dot-to-dot puzzle with few long lines between numbers, filling every nook and cranny with life-giving, Earth-saving, global-warming-combating beauty.
It takes a collective effort to have that many trees in the hardened cityscape of an urban city, but no group is more responsible that a small, relentless non-profit called Friends of the Urban Forest. Founded in 1981, FUF has added more than 45, 000 trees to the 49 square-mile city limits. That’s almost half of the city’s entire tree canopy. Its volunteers spread out most Saturday’s either revitalizing a neighborhood street or as replacing dead and dying trees in diverse neighborhoods. The organization works with homeowners to ensure proper care as well as conducts follow-up visits to trees it planted to ensure they are thriving. FUF @SFUrbanForester does much more, including educational and outreach work.
The core work is simple and effective. Make or find a hole in the concrete:
and fill it with a living, breating, helping, beautifying tree:
which is exactly what The Bride and The Youngest One and I did this weekend.
Turns out there is quite a bit that goes into making sure and urban tree will thrive. Our planting leader Ruth, who recruited us in the first place with her passion for the service, explained how the root balls had to be redirected.
Other long-time dedicated volunteers, like Vinny the Taxi Driver and Barry and Christina helped us newbies be useful while teaching us a great deal about trees.
We don’t shy away from the idea that a big, big part of our sober life involves service. The genius of AA discovered the importance of service from the outset. Its priority is clear, the 12th step, the last one that keeps on going and going as our life expands far away from the self-centered, narrow destruction of our addictions. Soon service becomes a habit, just part of what we do. That’s why we ended up on Saturday digging holes and plunking in trees.
We were one of four crews that fanned out that day, which by all accounts was pretty normal. Such is the significant, steady and ongoing commitment of FUF to the work, and why it was a good fit for our own desire to give back in a meaningful way, while spending time together. At one point Vinny sat back and let the three of us plant our very own tree. How oddly pleasurable to do such a simple task and yet it do it well and know that on a most concrete street with plenty of weeds poking through the sidewalk and very few trees, a tree we planted would stick around for seemingly a very, very long time.
It was a good day.