On the trail of the Sheesham tree

On the trail of the Sheesham tree

There’s something very special about people who plant trees.

When I was 15, I was blessed to have been able to listen to Richard St Barbe Baker on Australia’s ABC radio. St Barbe, Founder of “Men of the Trees” and by then an ancient oak himself, shared wisdom and stories from his long life planting trees. He radiated the serenity of a soul deeply content with its path. He had given life, without expectation of any return, to millions. He inspired me to become a forester.

When I was 21 and about to venture for the first time overseas, a good friend gave me a copy of “The Man who planted hope and grew happiness”. The short text, by French author Jean Giono, tells the story of Elzéard Bouffier, a quiet man of inestimable humility, who had spent the second half of his similarly long life alone in the mountains, planting trees and restoring life to a vast, man-made, desolate wasteland. In troubled times, Elzéard Bouffier’s selfless determination keeps me inspired.

So it was with great excitement that I met Krishan Rao, a notable farmer and enthusiastic tree planter, in India’s Haryana State last September. Some colleagues had met him previously and had urged me, “You have to meet Krishan Rao”. “You’ll love him,” they said. I wanted to see if it was true.

It was.

Krishan is a big bear of a man but he too carries that deep, humble serenity found especially, it seems, in tree planters. He’s a decorated farmer in his region, growing crops with good yields, but it’s his Sheesham trees he loves to discuss.

Krishan Rao

Krishan Rao

Does the humble and generous work of tree planting reward us with the gift of long life?

I spent a magical afternoon with Krishan, talking in his house before visiting some of his trees. I recorded a podcast, the second in the series from India after Stone Voices. I share it with you here so that you can learn more about Krishan and the tree planting project we do together.

Like Stone Voices, I haven’t overlain any translation over Krishan’s voice. Doing so would have cut the podcast in half, but I wanted you to be able to experience listening to Krishan the same way that I had - slowly and humbly. There should be no rush when speaking about trees.

Sheesham trees grow on the banks between fields. These trees, planted as part of TFT's project with MdM and Indian farmers, are just just over two years old

Sheesham trees grow on the banks between fields. These trees, planted as part of TFT's project with MdM and Indian farmers, are just just over two years old

We watched the sun go down over Krishan’s trees before returning to Hisar. It had been such a great day that we returned the next morning to watch the sunrise! It was stunning and a wonderful way to celebrate meeting Krishan on the trail of those Sheesham trees.

I am betting that Krishan will enjoy a long life, just like St Barbe and Elzéard Bouffier before him. There must be something medicinal about tree planting. I certainly felt it and I hope you do too.

Sunrise over Krishan Rao's Sheesham trees

Sunrise over Krishan Rao's Sheesham trees

Enjoyed that? I hope so. Thanks so much for engaging and please do feel free to post a comment below. I really enjoy hearing your thoughts and receiving feedback, positive OR negative. You might also enjoy "The living language is love", my chat with Swiss biodynamic wine maker Pierre Fonjalaz or "In the circle of trust" with the wonderful Barbara Reid where we explore Barbara's work with the Centre for Courage & Renewal.

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Next Victim Please

Next Victim Please

Exploring our differences creates opportunities for change

Exploring our differences creates opportunities for change