Sacred Acts

April 1, 2008

Vaughn Lovejoy

Tending trees, envisioning forests. Want to join Vaughn?

by Vaughn Lovejoy 

For the last decade, I have been blessed with the task oforganizing the planting and care of 120-acre woodland sanctuary for migratorysong birds along the Jordan River. Volunteers have planted nearly 70,000 nativetree and shrub seedlings. Through years of drought, we have watered them byhand or irrigation. We have worked together to control invasive species thatcan crowd out the seedlings. We have gathered over the years at the site whenthe planting season has come to a close to sing, play music, read poetry andtell stories by the light of the full moon. The vision of a woodland sanctuaryhas been blessed by the hearts and hands of thousands.


Even though we have not always succeeded, and our heartshave sometimes been broken, members of our community have returned over andover again to help. One summer morning eight years ago I was feelingdiscouraged and beginning to doubt whether what we were doing really made anydifference at all. I heard on the news a report that a 3,600-acre development had been approved for thefoothills surrounding Draper. Somehow the 40-acre restoration project we had atthe time seemed insignificant. I arrived at our site early that morning longbefore the youth group from the court system would arrive to water the newlyplanted trees and shrubs. The sun was just touching the meadow below; the dewwas evaporating, creating a layer of luminous mist which covered the JordanRiver flood plain. As I sat quietly in awe of this beauty, I experienced thepresence of all of those who had planted and cared for the budding woodland. Icould almost see them in the mist, but most of all I could feel the love andcare they had so generously given to this landscape. I could see clearly thatall our efforts to plant and cultivate beauty reverberate through not only thephysical, but also subtler realms.


Many times before we begin a planting, we take a fewminutes to dream together what this forest will look like in the decades ahead.I have asked the youth and young adults to dream into the future when they willhave grandchildren as I now have. I ask them to imagine sitting at the edge ofour woodland holding hands with a grandchild. By then the flood plain belowwill be filled with a mile-and-half-long forest of trees towering 50 feet. Beneaththeir upper branches will flower another canopy of trees; beneath them, acornucopia of shrubs. In our imaginations, we transport ourselves to a morningin the decades ahead to experience the sacred symphony of warblers, thrushes,sparrows and many other songbird species.


We envision, we plant, we envision some more. Theseexperiences have led me to believe we are not only restoring an extraordinarywoodland sanctuary but also a field of prayers within the heart of our valley.As a caretaker of this community woodland and prayer field, I invite you tojoin in the planting of 15,000 new trees and shrubs along a newly restoredstream in the Jordan River floodplain this spring. Envision an urban forest,and all the life it holds, for our grandchildren and beyond. Then plant. Andenvision some more. u


Vaughn Lovejoy is the ecological restoration coordinatorfor TreeUtah.