To the planter of trees

tree_lined_street_lgTwo of my frequent routes include an arcade of trees.  One is at an intersection I drive by every day, the other on 99E heading south towards Milwaukie.  Neither is very long – one just a block, the other maybe a quarter-mile.  But even in winter, when the branches are bare, the trees form this graceful archway that we drive through.

As I went though one the other day, I started wondering about the person or persons who planted those trees.  Were they young?  Did they see the fruits of their labor?  Did they measure carefully the space between the trees, imagining how far apart they needed to be so their branches could grow without touching?  Did they plant them hoping that in eighty years, one hundred years, the trees would still be alive, healthy, providing a bower for motorists?

It seems to me that planting trees is a pretty selfless act.  You may get to watch a sapling get strong, but you will likely not live to see it in its prime.  And planting trees is an act of hope, too – hope that someone else will take up the care of the tree, that in the future when the planter is gone someone will look at the tree and offer thanks.

We have two enormous oak trees on the west side of our house.  I imagine they were planted when the house was built in 1925.  They are now two and a half times as tall as our house, and they are beautiful, whether with bared branches or in the lush fullness of summer.  They are beautiful and more often than not I do not appreciate them.  February is the one time of the year when they aren’t dropping something.  Come spring, it will be helicopter seed pods, then green acorns in the summer.  In the fall the brown acorns drop, aided by feuding squirrels.  Once the acorns are done, the leaves turn brown and drift down; we are very generous and share our leaves with the neighborhood.  In the chill of winter things are still unless there’s a wind storm, in which case we have branches adorning our yard and roof.

laugh inI wish I appreciated our two oaks more than I do.  They provide habitat for squirrels, and I think the crows are doing their own version of Laugh In in them.  They shade half the house, a relief in the relentless sun of summer.  But they are messy and trimming them is not cheap.  Their root system means that we have a basement in only half the house.

Would I cut them down if I could? That’s the question, isn’t it.  It would make our lives and landscaping easier.  We wouldn’t have to wear our bike helmets when we dine al fresco.

Would I cut them down if I could? No.  No, I wouldn’t.  They are things of beauty, among the most grand in the neighborhood.  The crows make me laugh.  The squirrels drive the dog nuts and give him something to do when we’re gone for the day.  The shade is lovely.

And there’s something plain wrong about cutting down a magnificent healthy tree – the inconvenience to us is far outweighed by the patience it took for that tree to go, the hearty conversations with neighbors in the fall when we’re all raking the leaves, the sheer beauty of something that towers over our man-made home.

So, to the planter of trees, our oaks, the trees that line the avenues: thank you.  Thank you for your foresight.  Thank you for your dream.  Thank you for your part in creating something beautiful that maybe you never saw.  Thank you for the trees.

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7 thoughts on “To the planter of trees

  1. My yard had a beautiful flowering cherry in the front…but over the last few years it showed its age and slowly withdrew into it’s roots and obviously was dying. With the help of my arborist friend, the large trunk was removed, the big chunks hauled away and the roots chopped into sawdust. Then the arborist and his helpers planted a new one that looks straggly in comparison to the other. It’s called A Forest Pansy… it will eventually have purple flowers and leaves and red buds… I keep wondering if I’ll be around to see that development as now it looks like a slender stick with some interesting twigs … I’ll send you a pic of it with the three men who did the replanting. Trees tell us a lot about ourselves in how we respond to their actions… I have a number of other very tall trees on my property along with a couple of figs which my lovely wife loved…but I’m not a fig eater! Neighbors and family members are!

  2. Thanks, Beth! Great metaphors in this entry! I am a large tree lover from “out in the sticks.” Wonderful picture of the arched trees! Great use of the “Laugh In” picture! How many readers ever really SAW this for themselves? The cast used to break themselves up and were often unable to deliver their “zingers.” (Was surprised to see it, as you are “in the gap” after us Boomers as your bio mentions.)

    A few questions: I guess I should have been a professional nit-picker–the very characteristic that has driven me nuts in 45 years of church work. (And now I know why; I am one also!) Hmm . . . kept wondering about the town you mention and assume it’s not the one in Wisconsin misspelled. On to Google! In botany: If acorns are an oak tree’s seeds, where are the “helicopter pods” coming from? They may be the male flowers–such as they are on an oak–called “catkins”–that are falling off as they dry–or seeds from a maple or other helicopter-type seed tree getting mixed in (?)

    Anyway, I enjoy reading your thoughts each time and often forward them to the husband-wife co-pastors at the Presby where I play. (They are your Boomer forebearers, ha ha.)

  3. I remember as a squirrelly, squirmy 4th grader having to memorize Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” for some sort of school recital. Sixty some years hence I can still recite most of it. Beth, you write of our magnificent leaved friends in that tradition. I’ve been away from “Hold Fast…” for too long.
    Blessings, Mike

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