Saturday, May 21, 2005

GUNTIS BARENIS is the official arborist for St. Petersburg, Florida. He loves trees. He lives and breathes trees and makes sure they are well taken care of. If you want to cut down a tree in St. Petersburg, he's the man you have to get permission from. And he doesn't hand out permits lightly.

Guntis Barenis is 58 years old, and unmarried. He has never been married, although he was engaged once. Well, his bachelor days are over. I am going to marry him. I would even be willing to sleep in a room without air conditioning for a man who loves trees so much that he spends his life protecting them.

You see, folks, I too love trees. You're probably thinking, Everyone likes trees. No, I didn't say like. I said love. I love trees. I am fascinated by trees; enthralled by them. I am awed by their longevity -- many of the trees I walk by in my neighborhood were saplings before the American Revolution. When a human being dies after a very long life, a tree is just getting started. The bark of a mature tree is wondrous -- especially the trees with the bark that is ridged and that ripples with crevices; they are like the weathered faces of human beings who have lived a long, long life and seen everything there is to see. In fact, I think of trees as being the human beings of the plant world: they are the highest form of life in the plant world, as humans are in the animal world; the pinnacle of creation in their category.

There is something intensely spiritual about trees. I'm not sure what it is, but I feel it when I stop and look at a tree. Rooted in the ground, reaching for the sky. Staying in one place all their lives; branching off in hundreds of different directions. They're some kind of metaphor for how life should be lived.

A man who hates to see a tree cut down. That is rare, and quite wonderful.

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