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PIONEER PERSPECTIVES: In search of a good tree

As someone who’s new to Bemidji, there are a lot of things I’m searching for to help me feel at home: furniture for my apartment, a favorite restaurant, a new library card — but most importantly, I’m looking for a good tree.

Nicole Ronchetti
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As someone who’s new to Bemidji, there are a lot of things I’m searching for to help me feel at home: furniture for my apartment, a favorite restaurant, a new library card — but most importantly, I’m looking for a good tree.

That might seem like a strange addition to the list, but for me it’s vital. Everywhere I go I need to find a tree — or trees — that I can retreat to when times get tough.

I’m sure that other people can relate, but trees are where I go to find comfort. There’s no rival to the sense of peace I feel when I’m in the presence of old and towering trees, surrounded by the life and the history they embody.

Trees, and old trees especially, provide a connection to the ground I’m standing on, the community I’m living in, and those who lived in it before me.

In my hometown of Hibbing, there are two century-old maples that stand in front of the high school. They’re gigantic and beautiful, branches reaching out and giving balance to the tall and imposing structure.

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They’ve watched over children and teenagers walking through the school doors since the 1920s, including my own family. My siblings and I walked past those trees, but so did my father and grandparents.

Walking underneath their branches every day connected me to that history, both family and community. It might be silly, but I really love those maples, and a I teared up when I heard one of the trees had been damaged in a storm.

I also find myself drawn to trees for refuge. Trees large and small provide a familiar feeling even when the area around them might be new, strange and unsettling.

I went to university in the Twin Cities, far away from the miles of forest that I grew up surrounded by. Suddenly, everywhere I went there was pavement and cement. I felt out of place.

My university’s campus had plenty of green space and trees, thankfully, and that made me feel a bit more at home. In particular, whenever I was overwhelmed or homesick, I would go to a stand of tall pines growing in a secluded garden tucked behind the library.

For me, those pine trees were a source of comfort in an unfamiliar and urban environment. Retreating to that garden and staring up at their branches reminded me of quiet afternoons by the lake and walking through the carpet of fallen needles scattered beneath them felt like home.

As much as I enjoy all the trees I encounter, having a particular tree or group of trees that I can return to and rely on is important for me and helps me feel at home in a new space.

It might be odd, but finding a good tree in Bemidji is a roundabout way of finding a sense of belonging in a new community.

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If I can find a good tree with strong roots and a strong connection to the land, maybe I’ll be able to use it as a model to form those same bonds in this new community I’ve found myself in. Maybe I can make it my home.

So if anyone has any recommendations, a tall pine tree in a park, a twisted willow near the lake, even a spruce tree sticking out of a flooded swamp, I’m open to anything.

As strange as it might sound, I think once I find and fall in love with a tree in Bemidji, I’ll find my place.

Readers can reach Pioneer reporter Nicole Ronchetti at (218) 333-9791 or nronchetti@bemidjipioneer.com.

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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