By Leah Rambadt, American Forests
For most of my life, I’ve lived in the Blue Ridge Valley. Though I’ve been on numerous road trips with my family to almost every state in the country, the Blue Ridge Mountains are important to me because they mean “home.”
When I head home for school breaks or the holidays, the first curve in the highway indicates I’m getting closer and closer to my hometown. When I leave, the absence of curves and inclines mark the distance I’ve traveled away.
I grew up believing the mountains would never change. The trees covering them may go through the cycle of green leaves in the summer, an explosion of color in the fall, bare in the winter, and sprouting buds in the spring, but the mountains themselves wouldn’t change.
Now, it seems like there’s something different every time I go home. Sometimes the trees look like their leaves have changed colors or fallen off faster, or look like they’re growing back slower. Sometimes a mountain I remember being covered in trees looks more sparse, or has a new house or building on it. And sometimes, a part of the highway is under construction to expand the width of the roadway.
When I see these changes, I wish a tree or an entire forest would sprout up and grow until those changes disappear, and everything looks the way it used to. I know that isn’t possible, so instead, I’d like to learn more about American Forests’ urban forestry and reforestation projects to see if and how those techniques could be applied in my hometown.
Everything that lives has a story to tell. While the story I told above is how a part of the environment has had an impact on my life, I think the stories of the environment itself are the most overlooked and unheard. During my time at American Forests, my goal is to tell those stories — the environment’s stories — in a way that, hopefully, lets them be heard.