Posts Tagged With: trees

Overgrown

My front yard boasts an impressive acacia tree. It’s a good thirty feet tall with branches arching out over half of the yard and shading most of the driveway. With the tiniest of leaf petioles, I find it impressive that so much shade can exist under its twisting branches.

Acacia koa with phyllode between the branch an...

When the winds kick up around here the upper and outer branches, which are fairly thin and flexible, wave about like animated ghosts in a Disney cartoon. Some of the outer branches nearly touch the ground when the wind howls. It’s quite a show.

I worry that one of these mornings after one of our storms, I’ll peak out the front door to find the tree completed blown over or a significant branch or two lying on the ground. You see, the tree has a dire need of pruning.

Looking at it from a few houses away it looks okay. It’s green and fluffy and has a nice shape. But step underneath the tree and look up into the canopy and you’ll see the problem. Half of the branches are dead or dying, or at least look that way. I think maybe the tree can’t support that much growth, so the inside lower branches, which don’t get much sunlight kind of give up.

There’s one really large branch that’s broken but hanging on by the bark. We’re talking a branch eight inches across. All the branches on that limb have died and browned over and dropped most of their tiny leaves.

I’ve done the best I can with my pruning stick thingy, but it only cuts half-inch branches or smaller. What it really needs is a knowledgeable tree person to thin out the overgrown and unnecessary larger branches. This will, in turn, allow the rest of the tree to grow, flex, stretch and thrive.

Procrastination being my middle name, I’ve put off doing anything about it. Sure, I’ve asked a few friends for phone numbers of their tree people. But I haven’t followed through on getting estimates or scheduling the deed.

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I think I’m like that tree. I’m a tangled mess of a little of this and a bunch of that and some over here and there. Tough winds blow through my life and I get all tied up in knots and swoosh around wondering if I’m going to blow over or fall down.

It’s not that I’m wimpy or weak or wishy-washy. It’s more that I’m unfocused and spread over too wide of an area. So many things call to me for my time, money and attention.

I can’t do it all. My trunk and roots can’t support every leaf and branch my life wants to send out. Regardless of how worthwhile, fun, or interesting, sometimes I have to say “no.” Sometimes I have to let go of what looks good from a distance, but might, with closer inspection, really just take a toll on me.

Might be time for some personal pruning. Hmmm.

So, it’s five days since I wrote about the acacia tree. I finally had the tree pruned. It took a guy with power tools and ladders almost five hours to prune, trim, shape and bring that tree under control. Then he had to load the mountain of branches into his oversized trailer and strap it down snug.

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One of my fears was that it would look naked and overpruned. Luckily the tree guy really had a good handle on how to shape that mass of overgrown tangled branches. The tree still looks full and round. It still casts a broad shadow over my driveway and provides plenty of places for birds to hang out. But now, sunshine can get through the top canopy to the lower branches. Bits of blue sky show through when I look up from underneath this natural sculpture.

I think the tree will be happier and healthier without so much extra weight hanging on it. When the winds blow, the branches and tiny leaves will be less like sails on a ship and more like a musical instrument for the wind to make music with.

I think I’d be happier and healthier with some mental pruning. I’d rather be a musical instrument than a sail.

Categories: Gardening, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Treasure in the Mountains: A Short Story

One early summer day our family drove to the mountains with a shovel and a bucket in the back of our red-winged Chevy station wagon.  We were winding through a canyon called Strawberry on a narrow road, when we pulled onto the dirt shoulder.

Dad got out, grabbing the shovel and bucket.  My older brother and I tagged along behind him up the embankment.  Mom stayed behind in the car with the three younger kids.  As usual, I was full of questions and as usual I’m sure dad wished I’d just quiet down and follow along.  My brother had found a stick and was whacking things with it, rocks, other sticks, bugs, pine trees.  Dad wandered in and out among the trees and bushes as if he were looking for something.

I thought maybe he had buried a treasure here when he “was a young pup,” as he liked to say about his own childhood.   Now, I figured, he was back to claim his prize.

There were scrappy little pine trees no taller than me, scattered among the taller evergreens, but mostly there were tall clusters of white barked trees of various heights and widths.  It was quiet on this little hillside which, living in a household of five kids, was a rare commodity.  I found an old tree stump and sat down.  I could see dad wandering with his shovel not far off.  He had handed the bucket to my brother who was following at a distance, stick dragging behind him.

The air smelled like air does in the mountains, saturated with oxygen and the sweet musk of decay and new growth.  In the silence I heard a quiet sound of water flowing, as if a stream had just opened up on the hillside above me.  I turned to see where it was.  How could I have missed a stream to splash in and explore.  There was no water that I could see; yet the sound of water rushing increased.

Looking around, I saw Dad and my brother up the hill a ways.  As I hiked over to where they were I noticed Dad bent over clearing leaves and rocks from an area on the ground.  Instead of uncovering a large X marking a treasure or digging a big deep hole to unearth his cache, he carefully carved a circle out of the dirt.  It was a circle about the same size as our five-gallon bucket.  As I drew closer Dad wedged the shovel in slowly and lifted out a large chunk of dirt and rock and sticks and eased the whole mess into the bucket.  He gently tossed a couple of loose shovelfuls of dirt in on top of that.

“Well?” he said, his voice triumphant.  “Whaddaya think?”

I looked at him quizzically. “What’s it for?”

My brother answered for him with that tone big brothers get. “It’s a tree, a sap-ling,” he said, emphasizing each syllable as if I had never heard the word sapling before.

It was then I finally noticed in the bucket of dirt, a thin, creamy white stick, no bigger round than my thumb.  At the top of its not quite three-foot stature, a few roundish leaves held on in little clusters.  I reached out to touch one of the leaves, but stopped when my dad spoke.

“It’s a Quakie.”

“A quakie?  What’s a quakie?  Why do we have a quakie?  What are we gonna do with the quakie?  Why is it called a quakie?”

My dad waited for me to stop my stream of questions.  He lifted his shovel and kind of pointed with it at the stand of trees beside us.  “These are quakies – Quaking Aspen trees.”

My eyes followed the tall white, mottled trunks skyward to their canopy of round leaves.  Just then, a breeze blew in and that water flowing sound began again, and dad said, “See them winking at you?”  The leaves were moving in the breeze and changing color from bright green to nearly white.

It was then that I realized that rushing water sound wasn’t water at all.  It was the Quaking Aspen leaves brushing against each other in the wind, saying hello to me.

I felt a bit dizzy and reached out to a tree trunk to steady myself.  The smooth semi-glossy trunk felt warm and dry and comforting.  My hand said hello back to the winking trees and we were instant soul mates.  I ran my hand around the white trunk, feeling the tiny knobs and pits and bumps, the wrinkles and warps.  I kept looking up at the river of leaves above and the reaching white branches, the bit of blue sky peeking through.  I was somehow back home in a home I’d never known.  I was among friends I once knew, happy through to my toes.

“So, Dad?” I asked from my reverie.  “Is that a baby tree in the bucket?”

“Yup, it’s going home with us.  We’re planting it in the front yard.  Let’s get going!”

I leaned into the tree I was holding  and said a silent goodbye with a promise to care for the baby tree we were adopting.  I also vowed to come back and visit again soon. Dad’s whistle called me out of my haze and caught my attention.  He and my brother and the bucket with the quakie sapling were almost to the car already.  I loped down the hill past cluster after cluster of newfound friends.

I rode in the back of the car with the tree, watching as its round leaves jiggled and twisted with the cars movement. One side of each leaf was green as anything you’ve ever seen.  The other side was nearly white. I understood the “quaking” part of the name now.  Just a breath from my nose would flutter a leaf so easily.  The trunk was a miniature of the one I had held on to in the woods, smooth and creamy, with tiny bumps and speckles.  I think I memorized every part of that tree by time we pulled into the driveway.

I watched carefully as Dad bedded the baby tree into its new home in our front yard in the foothills.

When I discovered the Quaking Aspen’s radiant gold coins of fall, I knew I was right about Dad’s treasure up there in the hills.  It wasn’t a buried treasure, but one that shone out every autumn. Before any other tree changed colors, the Quaking Aspen leaves turn a brilliant yellow that whispers to me and calls me home to the mountains.

Categories: Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Bird on the Wing and Sheets to the Wind

English: Flying Herring Gull (Larus argentatus...

We had a tree in the back yard that I used to climb.  Don’t get too excited, it wasn’t very big by adult standards.  I don’t even remember what kind it was or what color the leaves changed to in the fall.  A sturdy, low, side angled branch, its most distinguishing feature, made it easy to climb.  On more than a few occasions I climbed that tree with a sheet, or blanket or cape of some kind, determined to use its height as my launch pad, my runway, my base for a flying leap.

My childish imagination and child-like faith saw me soaring on the sails I held tightly waded in my fist.  If the wind were blowing hard enough, I reasoned, I’d be able to stay aloft at least sixty seconds.  I’ll admit there were doubts floating about my head, which I tried to extinguish, but hope won out over fear as I made my way to the outer limbs.

I would look out at the back yard, cautiously eye the power line looping low from a pole to the house.  Then, I would envision myself lifting into the air.  Closing my eyes I’d leap out into a gust of wind.  I was always surprised that there wasn’t even the least little sensation of lift, hesitation or sense of flight.  The ground came up to meet me quickly and decisively.

My feet usually had that burning sensation from landing so hard, a sort of instant but fleeting numbness kept me on the grass.  Analyzing the situation I almost always concluded that I just didn’t believe enough.  Gravity, lift, or physics never entered my equation.  I was sure that my doubts pulled me down and kept me grounded.

If the wind stayed gusty I would often try several more times.  Climbing with my sheet or towel, thinking birdlike thoughts, willing it to be possible, I repeatedly leapt out into the invisible air certain THIS time would be it.

Hope versus reason.  Naysayers abound.  Negativity runs rampant.  One seldom hears of miracles.  And yet…

And yet, we all still climb.  We climb out of bed and face a difficult day.  We climb into our cars and work at a soul-numbing job to support a family. We climb over the obstacles that life throws at us and we keep moving.  We climb a mountain of despair after a loss and hope for less pain and brighter days. We climb through the paperwork and jump through the hoops to get the support and help a loved one needs.  We climb and we climb and we climb.

And every day we make that leap of faith and hope.

I am still a flightless child.  But inside, part of me still thinks the seemingly impossible could be possible if I just keep trying.

Categories: Memory Lane | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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