I’ve always appreciated trees, although I must admit that as a child, my appreciation extended more toward how I could use the trees at my grandma’s house while playing. (I did enjoy the shade that the trees provided; sitting under a tree with a glass of my grandma’s heady iced tea was a wonderful way to cool down after a day of playing in the sun. Then again, I was just as appreciative of the warmth that came from her coal furnace after a day of playing in the snow…)
I remember the tree fort that we grandchildren made. No mere tree house for us; our job as grandchildren was to protect Grandma and Grandpa from all sorts of intruders, mostly monsters and space aliens. The tree fort was a ramshackle affair of mismatched boards and other materials, the steps nailed into the tree, barely room for two small kids to sit. But it was ours. We felt so secure up within the branches of the tree, believing that nothing could find us there.
There was also a weeping willow at my grandma’s, whose graceful branches swept to the ground, creating the perfect place for our imaginations to grow. Depending on our mood, it was somewhere in the jungles of the Amazon, a place near the river in The Wind in the Willows, or an elf dwelling from Lord of the Rings. The possibilities were as endless as our imaginations. One time, we took it upon ourselves to braid as many of the branches together that we could. As four children who had nothing better to do, we managed to braid most of the branches we could reach. I don’t believe that Grandma was pleased with the results, asking us immediately to undo what we’d done!
Now, of course, with my work for the arboretum, I have a greater appreciation of trees and all that they do, all of the shapes and sizes they come in, the patterns of their growth. Some, like the sweetgum, are pyramidal, their branches reaching toward the sky like a happy child in the rain. Some, like the swamp white oak, send their branches down to try and touch the earth. The shapes of the leaves, the shadows they cast, the way the branches move in the breeze, all are different and beautiful.
Until next time!