Trees are such a treat for the senses.

Picture a tree-lined street, the branches arching over from both sides. I don’t know about you but just in bringing this to the mind’s eye, it’s like my body has a memory. I can feel the coolness, the relief from the scorching sun.

Sitting on the veranda on a perfect fall morning, when a heavy shirt is all that’s required to keep warm. It is still. Occasionally a hand-sized sugar maple leaf drops sliding back and forth in some unseen half-pipe. Orange feathers from outstretched limbs, slipping on a sigh.

Early last October I was flying into Sault Ste. Marie. Fortunately, it was clear. What a blaze of colors with the sun highlighting the orange of the sugar maples, the deep reds of the oaks, the yellows of the birches and aspen. The New England states draw people to see the fall colors and so does Sault Ste. Marie. If you love spectacular fall colors and are physically fit (because there is some hiking with many steps) you owe it to yourself to take the Algoma Central Railway Leaf Train to the Agawa Canyon. Plan ahead, it books up.

I don’t know how many times I’ve experienced it but I’m struck every time. I’m talking about the palette of a clear blue sky against the mountain evergreens. It’s more so during the growing season than in the winter when the needles are relatively dull.

And then there is the smell of trees: The earthiness of a deciduous forest after a rainfall or the refreshing odors of a coniferous forest. Being a hunter, I know there is a difference between the smell of a summer forest vs. a fall forest.

There is the rustling sound of a light breeze that sets the aspen leaves trembling.

Have you every stood in a pine forest when the winds are calm and there is snow falling? You can almost hear the snowflakes lighting on the soft needles. It gives me the same feeling as entering a centuries old church.

Trees are good for the soul.

Maybe you’re surprised to hear me say that. After all isn’t this the same guy that said “to a utility trees represent a liability. Trees can impair utility assets but have no capacity to increase the value of those assets”? That’s true but I think it’s a matter of being pragmatic. My love of trees must not prevent me from recognizing and stating the truth about trees relative to utility service.

My work has shown that the frequency of tree-caused outages is directly related to the extent of electric system exposure to trees. Does that mean we need to get rid of trees? No. What we need is for the regulators, the politicians and the public in general to accept this relationship. Then we can move on to determining what the socially acceptable balance is between electric system tree exposure and reliability of service.