By Sara Tekula
It’s 10:12pm on Thursday, Aug. 25, and I’m pooped. After packing and running errands for several days in preparation for nearly two months on the road, I’ve just succeeded in scooting off to the Kahului Airport, arriving curbside mere minutes before final boarding call to Oahu.
Upon arrival in Honolulu (one of our two connections on the way to Oakland, CA), we found ourselves “bumped” from our connecting flight, and my husband/filmmaking partner Joe and I are instead seated on a sold-out flight to San Francisco–taking a different path than our bags of gear, clothing and supplies, which are bound for Oakland.
We’re heading out on our third and final “Plant a Wish” tour–a project we launched last year that involves planting indigenous “wish” trees in all of the 50 states, and making a documentary about the whole adventure. We’ve only got nine states left to reach our goal–including a big finale in Hawaii on Nov. 5. This departure from Maui is our last before reaching the finish line. It feels bittersweet and exciting. And then it starts to sink in.
Now soaring high above the Pacific Ocean, we can finally leave some of the chaos behind and relax in our seats, reflecting on what we’re about to do. Over the next six weeks, our travels will take us by car to the only areas of the country we have left: the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.
We’ll point our lens at Mt. Rushmore, musing about how carved faces of the founding fathers were more important than the habitat that once lived on that mountaintop. Filming the whole way, we’ll drive our vehicle through a giant redwood tree, explore the effects of the logging industry from a private airplane, and learn how trees and salmon co-exist beautifully in Alaska.
We’ll witness the release of a river in Washington State that has been unhealthily dammed for the past 100 years. Most importantly, we’ll gather together with a diverse array of individuals in each of the nine remaining states of our tour and unite in getting our hands dirty–planting trees (with hand-written wishes planted beneath) in their neighborhoods.
Since Earth Day, 2010, Joe and I have been living and breathing Plant a Wish: hosting fundraisers, hustling for “crowd-sourced” donations online, filming an insane amount of footage (so far, to the tune of about 150 hours from 41 states), and coordinating events with our partners in all 50 states. Yes, we’re pretty much doing all of it ourselves.
Joe and I have learned from living in the Hawaiian Islands just how delicate Earth’s balance is. In an island ecosystem, the effects of an invasive species (take deer, or even humans, for example) easily become widespread and can quickly dominate the landscape. We learned about the vulnerability of island ecosystems, and how integral they are to the overall health of our home islands. We’ve just been “nerding out” on native biodiversity and the laws of nature ever since.
We’ve been extremely lucky to take our passions (land stewardship, trees, filmmaking and travel on the open road) and combine them into a project that people believe in and want to support.
We couldn’t do it without them: we’re not independently wealthy; there are no trust funds in our accounts. And the job we’ve taken on is often a very challenging one.
But we’ve become rich in the resources and lessons needed to fulfill our destiny as filmmakers, and face every hurdle as an opportunity to learn and become better problem solvers. Just like a jungle with the right amount of rain water and native flora and fauna–over time, it has learned to flourish. You see, the more you look, the more you’ll find that there is no separation between us and nature, and that when nature is in balance, everyone’s happy.
When we return home to plant at our statewide tree-planting finale on Nov. 5, Joe and I will be the first people in history to have planted native trees in all 50 states. That is where the film editing begins… and don’t get me started on that.
But first, we have a new hurdle to overcome: finding our way to Oakland Airport to collect our bags.
The story continues….For more information about Plant a Wish and our travels abroad through October, visit www.plantawish.org or follow us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/plantawish) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/plantawish)
Photo by Sean Michael Hower