When was the last time your eyes floated up above your head and you looked at a tree? I mean, really looked. At the leaves, the branches, the bark, all the stuff that falls off and is lying on the ground at the foot of a massive tree?
As I walked to a business meeting this morning, I absolutely gawked at 50 or so unbelievable trees. Here in Evanston, the trees of my childhood sing to me. Calling down from their crowns and reaching down from all those leafy branches. I was so mesmerized that I arrived at the coffee shop early, having no idea how much time had passed. I played and danced with those trees all along my path, fully engaged in the experience like a little kid. The idea that something so big is firmly rooted and, like an ever- fertile mother, just keeps on producing leaves and seeds year after year after year, gave me such a sense of joy and hope.
Why? One reason is that I was trying to figure out who they are. How can I tell one mama from the other?
What are their names? I need to know their names!
A few days ago at Barnes and Noble I was hurrying with a heavy armful of “books I need to read” and two gift cards ready to pay when I surprised myself with a detour to the Nature section. Peterson’s Field Guide to North American Birds jumped out at me. I grabbed it like a greedy six-year-old, yelling to myself, “I want that!” I opened it and, drooling at the gorgeous paintings, I glanced around and the National Wildlife Federation’s Field Guide to Trees also ended up in my greedy paws. These are the books I really wanted and needed! Running off, I left a little precarious pile of all but one of my previous collection sitting next to Field Guide to North American Reptiles.
Since then I have become more than a little infatuated with every tree (and bird) I see! Armed with my field guide I now know that those little helicopters all over the ground are really dried fruit called samaras, each one carrying a single seed, and that their differing shapes are great ways to identify some trees.
I smell trees and hug trees and am astounded at their groovy barks! I’m desperate to learn the names of at least 20 trees in this neighborhood by the end of the summer. I already know three. Did you know that some leaves are toothed and some toothless?
Doesn’t this sound familiar? Remember playing with an idea, a game, or a topic with that kind of passion? Remember when you were a kid and got totally “into” so many things when you had the time? How many of those things are still a part of your life? How many of those things are your life?
Look up! Play with some trees this summer at home and in your travels. Stick a samara on your nose. Make some new leafy or palm- fronded friends. Get to know their names. You’ll have to get your own field guide though; mine is very busy these days.
© Susan Caruso and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011