Catherine Garland: Guest opinion |

Catherine Garland: Guest opinion

Catherine Garland
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

In Shel Silverstein’s book, “The Giving Tree,” the beautiful and heartwarming tale tells of a tree so full of love for its young friend that it gives and gives and gives until it barely exists.

In the beginning, the tree is whole, and the small boy who lives by it loves to climb and swing on its branches and rest in its shade. As the boy grows bigger, he starts to destroy the tree by exploiting it for money in the belief that riches will bring him happiness. The tree gives everything it has each time the boy asks; first it gives its apples, then its branches and then its trunk. Finally all that’s left is its stump, which provides a seat for the boy, now an old man.

Just like “The Giving Tree” in the story, Aspen’s own T.R.E.E., a nonprofit organization whose name stands for Together Regenerating the Environment through Education, gives and gives and gives.

I wonder how many of you enjoyed as I did the magnificent Thanksgiving meal that our own Aspen T.R.E.E. provided for free to anyone who cared to show up – and around 600 people did. Small tables decorated with autumn leaves and bowls of dried apple rings filled the Aspen High School cafeteria, and guests were served first a choice of soup, then roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes, a shiitake mushroom and onion compote, a shredded carrot and apple salad, followed by a choice of desserts – pumpkin pie, apple puff pastry and pumpkin cookies. What a feast and every mouthful delicious! What an extraordinary act of generosity and love to the community from T.R.E.E.!

Every single ingredient in this feast was organic and produced locally, and local ranchers donated every item of food. Space in which to prepare and cook the meal was provided by local restaurants. The message that T.R.E.E. was conveying by providing this delicious meal is that we are surrounded by an abundance of good, organic food available locally, and it is not necessary to get all our food in the supermarkets, most of which comes from different countries thousands of miles away, using huge amounts of the world’s precious oil reserves to transport it here.

And, if you think about it, isn’t it more appealing to be eating food when you know exactly where it comes from and what the standards are for cleanliness, etc.? (It’s shocking how many health recalls there have been following outbreaks of illness and death for such benign foods as spinach and tomatoes, etc.)

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Aspen T.R.E.E., a small and impressive nonprofit, was co-founded by Eden Vardy and a small group of his classmates from Aspen High School. This year’s event was hosted by Eden and coordinated by River Morgan, assisted by a team of volunteers, mostly classmates from Aspen High School.

I am at an age when it’s all too easy to look at the younger generation and generalize them as kids in baggy pants who show too much unattractive anatomy, kids who seem to have very little purpose in life. Meeting Eden and his team has turned my thinking around. Eden is all of 23 years old as are most of his helpers. I am so proud of these young people and of their vision, and I now feel confident that the planet will survive the wounds that we, the older generation, have inflicted on it. I am glad to see them take over the leadership. I am glad to follow as they show the way.

Let’s not allow Aspen’s own Giving T.R.E.E. to give and give and give until it’s depleted. Let’s support them as generously as we can, and Aspen’s T.R.E.E. will continue to support us.

To learn more about T.R.E.E., the workshops hosted by them and the other ways in which to get involved, as well as to donate if you feel so moved, please go to or contact Eden at 379-2323.

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