They are there for us, protecting us.

When I was 6 or 7 years old, our school teacher took us out of the classroom onto the playground, which was a huge open space to the 6-year-old self.

She walked around the edge of the playground with us and showed us those trees, some of which had been there for decades already.

Standing in front of an especially tall ginkgo tree, she asked us to guess how tall the tree was.

“If the tree was to lie down on the ground, how much space do you think it might take?”

And so we all spread far on the playground and stood some length away from the tree, indicating that was how tall each of us thought the tree was. Some of us guessed it better than another, and I admit, we all thought we were all so very clever.

And the teacher said something. “How far do you think the root would go?”

We knew what root was, because we had a small plant growing in a glass jar in the classroom. But we could not see the root of the ginkgo tree because it was in the ground. The teacher said to us, for a tree to stand up strong, there has to be its root 3 times as long as the height of the tree; it means that the root of the tree would be as long as 3 of the trees put together; and that the roots grow in all directions, just like branches do.

Some of us were able to logically follow her words. We imagined how long the root of the tree was and how much of the playground it might cover, undercover and unseen. And we realised that the tree next to the ginkgo tree also had its root extending so far, and the tree next to it. It was a mesmerising experience.

And then the teacher said, those roots are holding together like we hold hands. When there is an earthquake, roots are holding the ground for us. When it is really windy, the roots are holding on so the trees can stay standing. We cannot see them, but they are there for us, protecting us.

It is interesting that I grew to be a person who prefers to live a gentle life, not drawn to those who would cut trees down because there is no immediate monetary value in what is visible on the surface. It is also interesting that I grew never to hesitate for a second to believe that there is always somebody who is watching over us and ready to protect us.

If I could make a request to the great spirit

If I could make a request to the Great Spirit

I’d ask to be reborn as a gentle tree

I want to be just wherever I will be

And grow just fine the way I will grow

I can spread my branches far and wide

To provide shelter for the animals to rest

My fruits may feed some hungry friends

And my leaves may cure those who seek help

Hopefully, humans will refrain from cutting me down for money

And I will watch over you as you go about your life

And you will grow to be as beautiful as you want to be