These days my neck is achy and sore. You might think this is where I go on and on about how hard I have been working out at the gym. Or that redoing our guest bathroom is quite labor intensive. But no, it’s from leaf peeping. I drive my car and find that I am craning my neck to see all the trees that line the streets. This entire month as my dog and I go on our daily walks I have been looking UP almost the entire time. No worries, my neck will be back to normal soon as most of the leaves have fallen making way for that daunting back-breaking task of raking. Ah, such is the give and take of life.
With all this time devoted to admiring the leaves, it also allows me to focus on another of my obsessions: Trees. I can trace this obsession back to the Pink Lily Magnolia tree in the front yard of our childhood home. I remember looking out our front window watching people slow down to admire her beauty. Some even hopped out of their car to take her picture. This was back in the day when you only had 12/24/36 exposures and not only did we have to buy film, but we paid to have it developed! Taking a photo back then was making a commitment, unlike today where people snap photos of every last thing. I should know as I’m that person who never has enough space in my phone for photos!
Anyway, back to my Magnolia. For just one week out of her entire year she was magnificent. One badly timed frost or snow and she would have to wait an entire year for a chance for her beauty to shine. Her smell was so intoxicating that I attempted to make perfume from her fallen petals for many years. I loved climbing her thick low branches and just laying there still. I always felt safe and protected there, under her crown. I miss my first tree love!
Thanks to our moving coach’s life, I have had the “luxury” of being introduced to many different native trees. In Florida my front yard had Palm trees and the park had Banyon trees. Alabama was scattered with beautiful Grove Magnolias with dark green waxy leaves. But my heart always seems to ache for my favorite New England tree types. So when we moved back in the Northeast, trees played a big part in the house hunting. I remember our new neighborhood was quiet, filled with trees and just perfect for walking Cornell. Our home was nestled along the edge of the woods, which looked to me as if “the woods had her back.” Never once did I give any thought to those trees' leaves needing raking. I could envision birds of all kinds feeding from my many bird feeders. Never imagining the droves of stubborn squirrels and chipmunks who would obliterate them. Doesn’t really matter, it would not have changed my mind one bit!
As suspected though, there was never a downside to our daily walks. Being creatures of habit-- we walk the same way each day and so too pass the same trees. For almost eleven months we passed a trio of very large, rather unimpressive trees. I respected them for their age, the amount of shade and shelter they provided for many birds--but as for beauty factor, nothing! I pretty much dismissed them until one Spring day. I thought they might look a bit pink to me, but I shook it off as nothing--until it could not be ignored. With each day they grew more and more beautiful, turning into the most gorgeous Cherry Blossom trees I had ever met! Cornell and I spent hours taking pictures and standing under the trees as the petals snowed down. Just like my Magnolia, this was their one week to shine! How had I forgotten that? I actually felt terrible I had been so judgmental.
So as I prepare to rake— I know not long from now snow will take the place of these leaves. So I shall enjoy this arduous task since shoveling snow is no walk in the park either.
Moral: As we all deal with the incomprehensible horror in France, I hope the trees “have our backs” as we as a world struggle to find a “safe place” to be.
your tree loving friend,
A few children's books about trees I love: Of course The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is on my list, but my other favorite is I Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe. This book is a beautiful twist on the importance and power of friendship. Pair either of these books with a bird feeder and you are good to go!