On my street corner stands a towering ficus tree. It’s over three stories tall with branches stretching as wide, and as soon as I see it I know I’m home. It provides a cool sanctuary for me to meet up with my run club friends, to the tourists resting on the hot trek to Diamond Head, and to the church sitting beneath its branches. The ficus, and the smaller trees lining the block, make our neighborhood.

Humans evolved with trees, not concrete. It makes sense then that where there are trees we are calmer, happier, and feel closer to the earth. And if they are the right trees, well fed.  When I lived in Manoa with a yard full of avocado, tangerine, and grapefruit, I barely worried about groceries and relished in my morning harvesting ritual, wrapped in my robe and clutching my mug of matcha.


And trees clean and cool the air. A tree with a broad canopy can lower air temperatures by ten degrees, and when strategically planted can cool your house, your child’s classroom, and your walk to work. Because walkable neighborhoods are healthy neighborhoods, and shady, tree lined streets make walking (and biking) possible in our sweltering months.

Most of the photos for this post were taken in Manoa, where like Oahu’s other older neighborhoods, trees bring a connection to the past. Many of the giant trees in the valley were planted by generations gone by, each tree a beautiful legacy helping make Manoa the community it is today.


So let’s transform our neighborhoods and quality of life by preserving and planting trees. Around our homes, our streets, and our schools.


For helpful resources on tree planting visit this great guide by Trees For Honolulu’s Future.

Photos by Emma Oshiro, story by Tamara Rigney with help from Emma Oshiro