Monday, November 29, 2010

Trees That Raised Me

 "God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying,"Ah!"
Joseph Campbell

I've been thinking a lot lately about the trees that raised me. Now that they have lost their leaves I can see how they have grown or how they are dying, and it is bittersweet. Most will live on long after I am gone and some had lived two or three hundred years before I ever met them. Of course I was not thinking about that when I was using their mossy north sides to wipe my hands many years ago, but I am now.

I slept in them, under them and near them. I climbed them, hacked at them, swung from their blistered pitchy limbs every single day. They were my constant companions. I would fill many days, sopping t-shirt muggy, raining hail frigid, trudging from one tree to the next. Eating a sandwich here, picking an apple there, climbing to the top, falling down from the top and digging for treasure at their roots. I  wallowed in the trees. Often my mother, who was a bit of a free spirit herself, would let me pack my dinner and my old plaid sleeping bag and sleep in the woods as I pleased. She knew where I was, safe with my favorite trees.

Over the years I've given each tree a name, some poetic, some practical, and they each have a place as rightful, in my childhood mind, as my grandfathers house (which is made from the trees here).

Let's go on a little walk around the homestead and I will introduce you to some of my childhood friends.

This is Littleoaktree. Littleoaktree was too small to bother climbing when I was a child, therefore he barely qualified in my mind as a tree, but it was a great meeting spot so Littleoaktree got a name anyway. I am now very fond of Littleoaktree because he is not so little anymore. Unlike all the giant trees who seem to be the same size as they were back in my childhood Littleoaktree is visibly much larger and I see my history in his growth. He now shelters my Top Bar bee hive.

This is Treehousetree, nice and close to the real house so essential supplies packed in feed buckets hung on baling twine ropes could be frequently hoisted high into the limbs. I think Treehousetree bears me no ill will, even though I pounded nails into a few limbs.

This is Octopustree or Umbrellatree, depending on my mood or the weather. She is a very old Vine Maple. Being under her when she had all her leaves, years ago, was like hiding in a shimmery green tent. She's in too much shade now. It's the other trees' turn.

This is Cherrytree.  She is not doing so good. She has one small limb left. I know that she was planted before my grandfather bought the property, so she is a little old. I used to sit in her limbs and look down on the horses. It was very shady and cool under Cherrytree so all the horses would always hang out there, kicking and shaking their heads "No" to the flies.

This is Homesteadertree. She is the tree under which the family who filed the original settlers claim on the property built their house. We used to dig in the dirt under her and find bits of china and old melted glass. I lost my Afro Barbie under Homesteadertree one summer. My brother found her three years later with lichen growing on her long-lashed face.

This, last but not least, is Mothertree. Mothertree is an ancient Madrone. Everyone in the family knows where Mothertree is. My dad slept under her when he was a kid and I did too and then my son and then my daughter after that. Bruiser is posing at the bottom of Mothertree so you can get an idea of how old she is.

These trees serve me now as anchors to my past. To a little self sometimes forgotten in the overwhelming neediness of the now.

Back then they were my bridge from the earth to the sky. They could make me feel very small and safe in their great arms and at the same time vast and old. Flying, but still touching the ground.

Both then and now they are a salve for my spirit. No trouble or joy can be better shared than with a beloved tree.


Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting, we love hearing from you! If you have trouble leaving a comment please check if your computer is set to reject pop-up windows or third party cookies. For some reason these will keep you from being able to post.