When we moved in to our house we had our back yard landscaped. Kish hates direct sunlight, so a key element of the design was a new tree planted at one corner of the patio. It was supposed to grow tall, leaf out, and provide lots of the glorious shade that Kish likes so well.
For the first year and a half, things went according to plan. The tree grew like crazy and looked to be doing fine. Then late last summer, the tree started to visibly struggle. Beginning at the top of the tree, the leaves wilted and died. We hoped that the tree would recover this spring, but the top half remained dead and the only new leaves appeared at the base of the tree trunk. As a last-ditch salvage effort, the landscapers cut off the dead top part of the tree — leaving us with the pathetic looking elongated stump shown above — in hopes it would spur new growth at the bottom of the tree. Unfortunately, that effort also failed. Our little tree has given up the ghost.
I like trees. I hate to see them struggle and I hate to see them die. This tree death is particularly weird because there’s no apparent cause. It wasn’t struck by lightning, and every other plant and shrub in our back yard is thriving. I guess sometimes death just happens.
The fine Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, teaches that beauty can be found just about anywhere — in skyscrapers, in flowers, in barns, in the rugged landscape of New Mexico . . . and in trees. So when I left the museum and saw this tree framed against the adobe walls of the museum, with the sunshine etching an intricate shadow on the wall, I had to let my inner O’Keeffe snap this photo.
I freely confess it: I am a big fan of trees. I’m not sure exactly why, but there is something about them that is deeply, intuitively appealing. Some deeply ingrained, inherited memory from our distant, arboreal past, perhaps?
And when I run across a truly great tree — like this one found at one corner of Schiller Park — I can’t help but stand in mute admiration, taking in the leafy canopy, the stout trunk, and particularly the powerful and graceful arc of one impossibly long limb stretching out to shade the grass beneath. It’s the kind of tree you could sit beneath on a warm summer’s day and happily study on a daydreamy afternoon.
Lately they’ve been taking down trees along the Yantis Loop and Route 62. It’s a sad occasion for the walkers, cyclists, and joggers who use the path.
For the most part, the now-missing trees weren’t the kind of beautiful, spreading trees about which Joyce Kilmer might wax rhapsodic. Instead, many were what Kish would call “field trees” — the kind of scrawny trees that farmers might use to visibly mark the boundaries between one field and another. Still, they provided some shade, protection from the elements, screening from the roadway and the noise of passing cars, and the sense that you were walking through a rustling tunnel of green leafiness.
Now they are gone, and there are just sorry, straw-covered spots on the ground where the trees once stood. As I said, it’s a sad occasion.
When we moved to New Albany in 1996, we planted a small pine tree in our back yard. At that time, our neighborhood was basically a bare expanse with some houses here and there, and the little conifer was part of an effort to add some texture and definition to our neck of North of Woods.
Every year since then, without fail, the little pine tree has grown a few feet. Now it is a little tree no longer. I’m not sure exactly how tall it has grown — 40 feet? 50 feet? — but it is the tallest tree in the ‘hood, and towers over our back yard. It’s hard to believe it once was little, but time has a way of having that kind of effect on things.
It works with birthdays, too — you remember the little sapling, and the next thing you know it is fully developed, mature, and holding its own in the forest of life.