Saturday, January 21, 2017

Enchanted by Trees

With our forty fifth president already sitting on his throne, I could throw in my two cents. But enough people will do that. No need to add to the din. Instead I'll  write about something I love - one of Mother Nature's greatest achievements - trees.

Listen to the word - trees. Say it to yourself - slowly. Savor the sound of those esses, how they rustle against each other, leaves whispering secrets.
Maybe even the secrets I've whispered to them. I always loved that whisperng, and I never minded the trees sharing my secrets with each other because, though I may have confided in just one, they were all my friends. 

The  grand old trees behind the Ardhu Hotel saw the passing of many generations. They were already old when my parents got married. They probably saw those trees through the windows as they celebrated at their wedding breakfast with family and friends. 
Had they been able to peek into the future they might have seen a freckled, gangly-limbed girl swinging from one of those trees - me. But they wouldn't have recognised me then. I was no more than a gleam in my dad's eye, and how could my mother know that the cute, dainty little daughter she might have dreamed of dressing in frills and lace would instead be a tomboy with constantly scraped and bleeding knees? One resistant to dance classes but crazy for trees.
Though you'd have to wonder what she expected after marrying a man, six foot two and lean-as-a-racehorse.

There was a special tree in the corner at the end of our garden which was my hideout and haven growing up. It wasn't an oak, or mighty, or majestic, just a nondescript, self effacing little tree
 with a narrow but sturdy trunk and dense foliage. I could climb easily up into the web of branches that formed the nest where I spent many hours reading and dreaming, safe and hidden from pesky siblings and  mother demanding to know had I done my homework.

When friends betrayed and turned cold shoulders, sneering on the playground "Thinks she's Hayley Mills!" I ran to my trees after school and poured out my anger and tears and they were never judgemental, their branches wrapping me in love and security, their leaves whispering comfort to my burning ears.

Except for the pink bloomers debacle. But that, of course, was a tree in a different part of town, a tree I hadn't met before, a tree whose loyalties were with Michael Breen and the Laurel Hill girls, so I didn't blame the tree, I blamed Michael Breen. And my mother for forcing me to wear those god-awful, grandmother-hand-me-down ideas of underwear.

I loved to ride my bike to the other side of town to visit my Auntie Ita. She was not really my aunt, but an elderly friend, who had introduced my parents to one another. She fed me banana and jam sandwiches, and treated me like a grownup and was great fun and I loved her. In Auntie Ita's neighbourhood there were lots of children who went to posher schools than I. I was delighted to be accepted into their group and happily followed them around. One day we ended up in a field where there were lovely, climbable trees. Imagine my surprise when they encouraged me to go first.......what an honour.......until I attained some height, and chortling and guffaws broke out below. Too late I remembered what I was wearing under my billowing skirt.........I still squirm at the humiliation of that day. To think that I trusted them and thought well of them! It didn't scar me for life as I undoubtedly thought at the time that it would. I still trust people, for the most part, and believe the best of them, unless they give me reason to do otherwise. But, as a precaution, whenever someone invites me to climb a tree with them I always insist that they go first.........and I never, ever wear pink bloomers any more.......from a long ago post.

 It was to, and up, a tree I ran when The Great Smoking Experiment blew up in our faces and Mary Grant's mother was on the warpath and lusting (or so I imagined) for my blood. To, and up, the highest tree in Barry's field, the one Mrs.Grant was least likely to be able to climb up after me to haul me down. I can't imagine, from this distance of years, what I thought she'd have done to me. Mary Grant was the ringleader in all our misadventures. I was the one being led by the nose. But there I stayed, shivering as the sun sank, until I figured Mrs.Grant's temper had cooled and the likelihood of her coming after me with a kitchen knife had receded. I'm sure now that she would have been shocked that I imagined her capable of violence against a child, but there's the rub. My imagination wasn't yet encumbered by reality, so it soared.

And wouldn't you know turns out love of trees is genetic. It didn't even skip a generation the way they say twins do. In her searching-for-herself period our California Girl actually lived way up near the top of a giant redwood to protest the logging of majestric old growth forests. Now that she's all grown up and living in a more conventional setting, she says her favorite thing about living at the top of that giant redwood, which itself was on high ground, was waking up in the morning and looking down on the valley enveloped in early morning fog. It took her breath away every time.

Back in the days when I dabbled in it, I did this quote in calligraphy...

.......inspired by the OC who has planted trees at every home we've owned. We usually were not around to enjoy them when they matured but I'm sure faces that he has not seen have blessed him. Since we moved into this house, he and our plant whisperer son, have planted oaks and bamboo, maples and magnolias, walnut and pomegranate trees, to name just a few, and we have been around to see them grow tremendously (I was tempted there by a pun but decided to spare you!) in sixteen years, the longest we've lived anywhere, providing cover and shelter for birds, bugs, spiders, squirrels, frogs, rodents and all manner of creepy crawlies, delighting us daily.
That plant whisperer I mentioned, who is responsible for the variety of trees in our garden, is now involved in arboculture. If you were corny you could even say the apple didn't fall far from the tree! 

And still, trees keep popping up.

A few weeks ago I read a review of the book Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and was intrigued. She's an acclaimed scientist who studies trees, flowers, seeds and soil. While her book is about science and biology, it is also the story of her struggle to be accepted in a field dominated by men. With her down-to-earth style, the science was easy to digest, but she also, by turns, moved me to tears and made me fall off my chair laughing.
"Every single year," she says, "at least one tree is cut down in your name." She urges us to plant trees wherever and whenever we can so that "when we are gone," we don't "leave our heirs stranded in a pile of rubble, just as sick and hungry and war-exhausted as we ever were, bereft  even of the homely comfort of the color green..."

We're on it already!

Now that Mr. Trump is settled in the White House, and given his cavalier attitude towards the environment, it behooves each of us to do what we can to protect what it looks like he will not.
If you have not exhausted all your reserves of energy getting this far, go out and plant something this week. Mother Nature will be appreciate the help


Elephant's Child said...

A shared love.
Of all Tolkein's characters the ones I most wanted to meet were the Ents. And I still grieve for the Entwives.
A year or so ago I was given 'In their Branches' a collection of stories sharing just what trees have meant to many Australians. There in the good times, there in the bad...

Marigold Jam said...

Brilliant post! Imagine how sad it must be to grow up without ever having climbed trees. I can still remember a few of the ones I climbed more than half a century ago and even the small elder bushes which although not climbable gave hiding places and dens. Trees are wonderful things providing shade and shelter and homes for so much wildlife so let's pray that the 45th president will not be able to do all that he has promised and especially when it comes to the environment!

Colette said...

Great tree pics. They really resonated with me. I was just walking in a Florida state park the other day, trying to ground myself in communion with the forest. It helped ease the anxiety brought on by an insane world. This post had much the same effect.

dianne said...

i've never climbed a tree ... my mother fell out of a tree when she was a little girl and broke her arm; she wouldn't let us climb the big cottonwoods outside my auntie's different homes in North Denver (where the trees were actually big enough to hold our weight) because she said we couldn't afford the doctor bills if we fell ... our neighborhood was in the middle of what used to be wheat fields and there were no big trees ... and when i finally got up the nerve to sneak into a tree, it was a Russian Olive and its thorns tore into me ... anywho, i learned to love trees from the ground, looking up...

trees (and the Green Nation, in general) are AWESOME!!!

Lee said...

A wonderful post, Molly. When I was a little girl we had two lovely trees growing in our backyard. They were climbed often...probably daily during the years of our older brother and me. We built tree houses of sorts (we were award-winning architects) and many of our stories were played out in those trees, and tree houses.

There are some things carelessly said or done to us when we're children the memories of which remain with us for the rest of our lives. Humiliation when we're a child sometimes is so much larger than it really is...but it is...and it hurts. :)

Marigold Jam said...

Wonder if you have seen this blog? More about climbing trees.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Apple trees , damson and plum , greengages and pears ...
And building houses for a fictional mouse called Gloria in the roots of trees up by the reservoir .

Molly Bon said...

EC --- To my shame I have to admit to having not yet read Tolkien. Something must be done about that - and soon!

Marigold --- Me neither.....I can't imagine life without trees. That would be my definition of a deprived childhood! And still I love trees around me. Even the beach is better if there's a palm tree nearby. And thank's for that link! I had a quick look - what a great way to live.

Colette --- I'm a bit beyond climbing trees now, but walking among them still has a steadying effect.

Dianne --- You've never climbed a tree?? Never, ever? I think you need to put in a request that in your next life you'll be able tolive in a tree house and climb every day!

Lee --- Don't worry, I was'nt scarred for life, though the memory is vivid! Wounded pride mostly!

S & S --- Cavities formed by the roots of trees intrigue me! It always starts me thinking of the communities of little creatures who live there. Think Watership Down or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh?

Secret Agent Woman said...

Children can be so unkind to each other. Then again, so can adults.

But trees - yes. In my neighborhood there's a landscape architect how is urging everyone to plant "legacy trees" - those that will benefit our grandchildren rather than is. I put in a gingko on his advice.

Molly Bon said...

SAG --- Good for you! We've planted lots of trees in our various homes but because the OC was in the military which meant we moved every couple of years, they won't be a legacy for our grandchildren, but I'm sure whoever lives in those places now appreciates the green and the shade they provide.

Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed this post very much; your photos of trees were lovely. I also love trees and will stop my car when I see one I like and take a photo. We have been in our house here for 40 years now. Our first Christmas we planted several trees – one was a live Christmas tree. Unfortunately last year the Water Commission decided to install large pipes along our land and cut at least 28 of our trees, including our, by now, huge Christmas tree – I was desolate (I placed a last picture of it on my blog.)

dianne said...

oh, Ms. Molly, thank you to the moon and back again for writing what you wrote in your comment about the buffalo ... you helped me climb up a bit from the Deep ... let me know if you'll be needing the pattern (and, yes, i've never climbed a tree - but I HAVE fallen up some stairs ... and face-planted off a curb)

Pauline said...

Passing By

tonight the wind came
sweeping down from
the stars to stir
the leaves

that whispered at first
mildly surprised
then all in a rush
flung themselves

together, dancing wildly
bowing first one way
then the other
on their bendy branches

wind can’t stay
wanderer that it is
the leaves sighed
and were still

Molly Bon said...

Pauline - I think you have just shown me that a poem can be as lovely as a tree....Thank you !