Spring has Awakened

Today is a dreary day but I don’t want to complain, we’ve had some gorgeous spring weather lately. Last year at this time I was in Italy and so missed these April weeks of spring awakening. My allergies are at their worst, but it’s worth it (I think) to see all the pops of color on the trees and shrubs and the perennial miracle of flowers saying hello from places forgotten.

As I wrote in Road Trip and Writing Class about our recent trip down the west coast, the tall elegant evergreens of the northwest and the thick strong redwoods of northern California seemed to be daring me not to take notice of them. They were stunning. On my short stayover in Seattle at the start of the trip, a good friend and fellow tree-lover gave me the book Finding The Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. Simard is a professor of forest ecology in British Columbia and has spent most of her life researching and writing on trees and forests. I’ll be honest, a lot of the book was in scientific terms and a little over my head, so I skimmed some sections. But I easily engaged with the stories of her personal life and appreciated how she wove in those stories with her research on trees. About three quarters of the way into the book she gets breast cancer. I was floored. I’m not sure why I was overly upset about that. I mean, I’m always upset with news of anyone getting cancer, and it happens far too often these days, but I didn’t see it coming. She was in nature all the time. How could that happen? Anyway, it made me realize how very engaged I was with her story. And then the way she paralleled her cancer journey with her research on the mother trees was brilliant.

In my prior post on trees, Have You Hugged A Tree Lately? , I mention another book, The Overstory, by Richard Powers. I started reading that book in 2019 and recently realized I had never finished it. So after I finished the Mother Tree book, I started over at the beginning and read this 500-page novel and just finished it last weekend. It is such a well-written and compelling story, intertwining the lives of seven or eight characters and their life-long connections with trees. It was chockful of information about trees and the forests, told in a more lyrical way than a technical book. It was also sad. I had secretly hoped for some resemblance to a Hollywood ending, at least for a couple of the characters. Alas, that didn’t happen. I would love to hear the author talk about the book again, to understand why it was so dark. Perhaps to make light of these issues would do it an injustice. Maybe he wants people to stay sad and uncomfortable about the state of our dwindling forests. There isn’t a way to wrap it up happily. The Overstory is a story that is not over.

So you see, trees are on my mind these days

We have a gigantic Tulip Poplar in our back yard. The other night, walking down the alley on our way back from walking Moose, I saw just how majestic it is and took this picture. The next day, Brad came in the side door to the kitchen with a big gash in his hand. We’d had a lot of wind recently and he was out picking up branches that had fallen, in preparation to mow. Somehow one of the big branches took a chunk out of his hand near that webbed space where the thumb and forefinger meet. He grabbed a tea towel and put pressure on it to stop the bleeding. Then we cleaned it out with water and hydrogen peroxide before drying it and stretching two band-aides over it. He was all set to mow. About an hour later, he came back in saying, “that tree is out to get me.” An even larger branch had just fallen and missed him by inches. He showed me the branch and it was huge. It definitely could’ve done some damage to him. Since I’ve been reading these books about trees communicating with us, I playfully asked, “What do you think the tree is trying to tell you?” He said he didn’t know. “Maybe it’s thanking you for taking such good care of it all these years,” was my unsolicited interpretation. I’m pretty sure there was no response to that. Or maybe the tree was just messing with him. Or maybe the wind just blew a branch off of the tree. It’s all in your perspective.

Here’s one more tree picture I want to share with you. I took it in Florida. I think my friend said it’s some kind of oak.

Stop and admire the trees.

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