• Jaime Pollard-Smith

Planting Progress

“And the boy loved the tree.......very much. And the tree was happy.”

—Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree


I turn on my signal and my heart sinks. My exit from the beltway has been cleared for “progress.” Corpses of trees lay in piles as tall as they once stood. Rigamortis of the roots. The clay cries.


It doesn’t feel like progress. It feels personal.


Charlotte, like many bustling metropolises around this country, is booming. It’s impossible to drive more than a few miles and not encounter some sort of construction. Where space is at a premium, the building turns skyward— a concrete jungle in the making. This past weekend, while riding in an unfamiliar part of North Charlotte, I passed a line a mile long of signs reading: “Say No to Condos.” Individual residents feel like they must join the tidal wave or be crushed in its wake. And if the only alternative were for our city to die, then most of us would choose the latter; yet it can feel overwhelming to lose the literal ground beneath our feet.


This is the feeling I experience every time I take my exit for work. I feel the urgency and panic. I feel the doom of this-can’t-be-undone. How will we breathe without our Mother’s lungs? What will hold us in place? Asphalt, while durable, is not made to anchor the hearts of humans. When is enough going to be enough?


The land we inhabit, our “Giving Earth,” will soon have nothing left to give.


I recently watched the award-winning documentary, “Honeyland.” It follows the story of the last female bee-hunter in Europe, Hatidze Muratova. She is fighting to save the bees in her remote corner of Macedonia. Hatidze lives in harmonious balance with nature. The filmmakers capture her singing to the bees and nurturing them in natural settings, such as rocks and trees. Her philosophy is simple. She gets half the honey but always leaves half for the bees. When nomadic farmers move into the area and break this sacred balance, her livelihood is threatened.


Hatidze’s equation is fair and honors the gifts the Earth provides. In her version of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, she would still be chilling in the shade of a grown tree full of fruit. But her approach that prioritizes a give-and-take relationship of mutual respect does not generate the most profit. It is not ambitious enough to satisfy the thirst of capitalism.


News reports and live feeds of environmental disasters can make our current situation seem dire and beyond repair. I feel like I am watching a train racing off the tracks at full speed as I see the world literally going up in smoke. Yet, I do hold out hope and keep the faith.


I have faith in Mother Nature. I think she is mighty, brilliant and has managed just fine without us. Her ability to heal astounds me. I also cling to faith in humanity. I trust that we can come together to make enough micro changes that can ultimately alter the Earth on a macro level. We can teach our kids to be better than we have been. I believe in people like Hatidze who show us that nature’s story is our story.


My hope was bolstered this past Saturday when my CrossFit community participated in a tree-planting event with a local non-profit. “TreesCharlotte’s vision is 50 percent canopy coverage, city-wide acceptance of responsibility to plant and care for trees and sustained funding to continue the mission generation to generation.” Fifty percent! Hatidze would be proud.


In less than two hours, our group planted 115 trees at a local elementary school. At one point, I looked around to see my husband, children and CrossFit family covered in orange clay ushering baby oaks into their new place in this world. I imagined the children someday playing at recess swinging on the branches of those very trees and lounging under their shade. I could breathe just a little bit easier.


We hope to leave this world a little better than we found it. I am not quite sure that option is still a possibility, but we can try to stop the bleeding. We can make a collective decision to balance what we give and what we take. May the tree that gives so freely also get a chance to receive.




A special thanks to Mo Hoffmann, Rebecca Fagan, Ellen “Ace” Houpt and Sosha Lewis for coordinating the CrossFit Jane tree effort. In addition to planting trees for my 40th birthday, CFJ planted a tree in memory of my mom, Sandra Pollard. I inherited her love for trees. I am grateful to everyone who came out to help Charlotte gain a few trees this past Saturday.


For more information on the important work of TreesCharlotte and ways that you and your family can get involved, visit https://treescharlotte.org/.