“Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” ~Walt Whitman
I’ve been blessed to live with magnificent trees throughout my life. As a child my world was bounded by a great maple for climbing, an ancient half-shattered walnut, and a pear tree that brought wasps in summer to devour its decaying fruit. There was also a great cedar tree that was home, periodically, to Stanley, and later, Ethel. These were blacksnakes that terrorized my mother, were pets to my father, and mysterious challenging beings to me.
Later I lived on the side of a mountain adjacent to the Appalachian Trail. The vast forest was sheltering and nurturing. Terms like BTU’s, cord, cured, and standing dead became important to a household that heated primarily with wood. But the woods also held mystery, challenge, and triumph for two growing boys.
A mighty oak stands sentinel in what was my backyard for the fifteen years I lived on my farm in Shepherdstown. I watched it spread its canopy and offer its shade, increasing each year until it covered what once was a bed for sun-loving lilies, bee-balm, and peonies. Summer evenings brought dinners outdoors. Candlelight and dancing fireflies from its branches illuminated the smiles of guests faces. Heavy mast years warned of big snows in the winter and the yard would become a feeding ground for far too many deer and squirrels. But the animal I enjoyed most was a club-footed crow that sat on a branch near my bathroom window. He cawed at me for years, especially during winter months. Listen! he said. Listen to the moonlight make its way through the branches and the crinkly soft crunching of the snow. Listen to the quiet.
I live now in a land of cork oaks and olives. What they lack in stature they trump all others with their history of partnership with the land and its inhabitants for several thousand years. The rhythm of life is largely unchanged for the people that harvest the olives and cork. I’m enjoying it visually. But I am also in-tune with this rhythm and what it means to live by the seasons.
I’m going to write more about this in my next blog. For now, here are a couple of tree pictures from many years past, and a few I made two days ago. Enjoy. A dear friend from home keeps me updated on the Sycamore near the railroad and the mighty oaks at the turn at Hendricks farm. I hope you have special trees in your life too.