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Threading Through Life – OpEd


A reporter who came to one of our tree planting activities asked me last year, “Why do you do it?” I started to answer, but stopped short of giving the relatively technical and ecological reasons. I do not entirely recall how I answered but the question remains in my mind.

Years of tilling the soil, weeding a good space, pushing a shovel to dig a cozy space for seedlings while running the rich dark and sometime gravelly soil and pulling off weeds that choke the poor seedlings, have become all too routine,

Now, I am asked most too often why I do what I do. The very basic reason lies in God’s calling for us to be stewards of His creation. And as stewards, we plant to replace God’s creation that have been killed, destroyed and ruined.

Nothing has changed. I’m 62 and have been planting since 1992. I’m still here. I have a hard time believing I am still here, after close shaves with the Reaper.. The feeling is strange even if I know I am not a stranger to what I do. This kind of work is a blessing, but addicting. It pulls me to go on every year, despite signs telling me to slow down.

Things are changing. Those who know me know to take this with a grain of salt. It may not be long before I let the younger ones take over. Next year may definitely be my last year. but i have been saying this too often. The body is tired and spent. I also have, a grandson to look after, a book to write, and pending articles that have earned the ire of my editors. And, physically, climbing mountains and trails, carrying loads are becoming albeit, more difficult. Every activity.

There are challenges as trees continue to feel the threat that we create and I keep a relatively positive mental attitude. This year I am in high spirits, but with a fatalistic frame of mind. On the plane coming back here from Davao last January, I day-dreamed about coming home to my kids who were surprisingly all home, there was food on the table, my fruit trees were in bloom, my dogs rubbed against my leg, and unread book chapters on the table in my library gathered dust.… I know the feeling of relief that home brings all too well. I also know too well…… all is not well with me.

Mornings are the most difficult. Daytime and evenings are much better. It has been almost a year now. At dawn, the numb awkward feeling comes….there is no rhythm to my weary legs. I shake it off with physical efforts…but the body numbs…

I have a commitment to plant more trees, care for these, restore their biodiversity and help provide livelihood to some families. I have my farm to think of…….but my my mind is almost always somewhere far-off…thinking of the next tree planting that has yet to be done….and the battle to protect the trees..

Sometimes i wish for more time, more opportunities, but I know reality tells me otherwise.

The horizon will not be there one day. So I am thankful dearly for all that have been and was.

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Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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