“[E]verybody has a tree they remember from being a child. It’s very common I meet somebody who remembers looking carefully at a tree, and being near it, and what it meant to them, et cetera. And I think one of the only interesting things about me is that I never lost that.” –Hope Jahren
When I heard geobiologist and author of “Lab Girl”, Dr. Jahren, say that in a PBS interview about her memoir and investigation into the lives of plants I thought challenge accepted! I asked myself what do I remember from childhood? I came up with three.
The Pear Tree: All three were magical, but this one looked it. Once I was tall enough I could see little green bulbs on its branches become bright white blooms from the back kitchen window. Even its stamens were ornate.
When it got warmer I would watch the white petals float onto the lawn every time the wind blew. Then swollen light green bulbs would make their debut. Family friends enjoyed the baskets full we gathered for them when they visited, but I never liked pears. Their mushy insides made me wish they were apples. Still, I never wished it was an apple tree.
Into Fall the leaves fell in pale green and brownish purple around the tree’s base. By winter, barren and dusted in snow, The Pear Tree looked as unremarkable as any other.
It’s The Pear Tree in Spring, as I’ve written before, that I’ll always remember. Although I’ve moved I still think of it’s seasonal transformations reminding me time goes on…
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” –2 Corinthians 4:17-18
The Big Pine Tree: It stood several feet away from The Pear Tree all the way in the front yard. As the story goes my big sister choose what would become my childhood home because of it. As soon as she saw The Big Pine Tree she ran to it and wouldn’t leave.
I’m glad they bought the house. We had the second biggest yard and The Big Pine Tree was the tallest tree on our block in Queens, NY. I remember tripping over its gigantic roots that couldn’t be contained under the soil while I looked up at the top close to the trunk. Even though there was a whole world up there no branches were ever low enough to try to climb it. In the Fall brown pine needles would surround the base. When sap dripped down its heavy dark brown bark I’d run my fingers over the sticky resin as a child to stop the tree from crying. In Winter it was the neighborhood’s Christmas tree.
Years later we got new next door neighbors they that didn’t seem used to living in a tree filled residential area. I came home from school one day to find construction workers all around their front yard. As I got closer to the house I saw some of those workers were in our yard. By the time I got to The Big Pine Tree the workers were leaving and the damage was done. They chainsawed off every branch that hung over their yard and left the cut pieces where they fell. Their driveway was jackhammered to unearth The Big Pine Tree’s roots so they could douse its roots with chemicals to destroy it.
Once the issue was settled between heads of household I marveled at the defiant tree. It remained evergreen dropping pine cones or dripping sap when it felt like it all year. Every year. Evergreen.
Despite all of that no criminal neighbors, no hurricane, super storm, or thundersnow has made The Big Pine Tree fall.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you…” 1 Corinthians 15:58
The Red Maple Tree: It was of modest size but of big impact. It lived on the lawn outside the window of my elementary/junior high Life Science classroom. We could see the top to top-mid of it from our desks out the window. Much to Mrs. Taylor’s frustration from time to time most of us student preferred to learn our lessons from The Red Maple Tree.
In the Spring we were restless. Our attention would drift out the window on sunny days. The Red Maple Tree’s the dark red leaves swayed in the breeze against the blue sky with scattered perfect white cumulus clouds. We wanted to be free outside too. For our hair to be like those leaves. To laugh at nothing outside on the grass or sitting on the gate in front of the church. To rip off our constricting Catholic school uniforms. To breathe.
Some days we were uncontrollable. Mrs. Taylor’s cool island breeze Tobagoan/Trinidadian accent would turn into a howling gust of wind blowing you into a panic. Some days student after student would get yelled at for staring at The Red Maple Tree. Every day it was totally worth it.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. –1 Corinthians 6:12
Photo Credit: Neocerebro at English Wikipedia
What tree or trees are special to you? What have they taught you?