I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree...(Joyce Kilmer)
Trees. I planted five of them this week as a participant of the 250 K Day the Tennessee Environmental Council held. Their goal was to have Tennesseans plant 250,000 native trees all in one day by providing hundreds of thousands of trees with a requested donation of a dollar a tree! What a delightful gift to receive!
My love of trees was fostered by my mother. She loves trees and can name most of them by their shape or leaf or bark. As a child, my favorite one was a huge sycamore that towered above the rest in our backyard. It had perfect limbs for climbing – like stairsteps toward the sky. I’m not sure I would have let my own children climb to the top at 50 feet above the ground, but I guess my mother had survived her own tree climbing days, so she gave us the pleasure of doing the same. While I never tumbled from the top, I did get the wind knocked out of me as I was hanging upside down by my knees from the lowest branch when it decided to part ways with the trunk. Nothing broken (except the limb) – just a very frightening, breathless moment. On another occasion I was perched in the highest branches taunting my mother’s best friend’s son who came to spend the day with us. I don’t remember why I was being mean or even what I said, but I do remember the long climb down and the spanking bestowed on my backside after my sister told on me.
Another favorite tree of mine is the Mimosia tree. We had one when I was young and because I have such fond memories of its pink blooms and fern-like greenery, I decided I needed my own. I was delighted to find many growing along the creek bank where I happened to be wading with my oldest grandson. He helped me dig in the wet soil to loosen the roots and later he enjoyed the planting of it even more. It was a tiny sapling when we brought it to our homestead, but eight years later it towers above the roof of our house. When its blooms join summer’s coming out party, I sit at an upstairs window and watch dozens of butterflies enjoy its nectar.
On the other hand, one tree that came with the log home we bought has been quite a nuisance. The huge black walnut tree stands in front of our house regularly depositing its fruit. At first I was excited to have our own supply of black walnuts. I diligently collected them as they fell and kept them in bags (in the garage) until I could find the time to dig out their delicious meat. Little did I know that the bags were slowly oozing black liquid all over the white concrete floors! It took hours of scrubbing with brush and bleach to remove the stains. Then and there I decided that I would share the bounty with my resident squirrels. Just when I think my black walnut troubles are over, I’ll find the black shells on my porch, on the white rails of the trash enclosure, or dig one up out of a garden bed where squirrels have eaten or buried them. I guess that’s one tree I could do without!
I’m also learning how to prune my fruit trees. For the past several years I’ve watched No Name work his magic on the trees at the farm orchard. Well, No Name isn’t his name, but long ago he decided to divorce himself from his name. So when he’s not around we call him No Name, but when he’s with us, we stumble around trying to summon him without using a name. Other than the No Name dilemma, he is a unique and delightful person - patient to explain what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.
Trees have so much to give us – shade from the sun, fruit from their limbs, a place to hang swings, oxygen to breathe, branches to climb, beauty to behold, and lovely memories to cherish. Might it be that trees find pleasure in the giving? Just maybe, like Shel Silverstein says in his wonderful book, The Giving Tree, after giving its very life for a boy it loved, the story ends with “And the tree was happy.”