Tag Archives: Tree

My Tree Fetish

I’ve written before about how much I love trees.  Here are a list of some of my tree posts, in case you want verification ;):

I’m not sure why trees are so important to me, both as a person and as a writer.   I know I’m not the only one because when I brought up this subject in the past on this blog, I found that there are many other bloggers who feel as I do about trees.

For some reason I feel they are akin (a kin) to us, just as I feel about animals.  There is a spirit in each tree.

Many years ago a friend gave me a beautiful book by Rabindranath Tagore called Fireflies.  This is a quote from the book:

“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”

One tree I can’t get enough of is the Jacaranda, which is found in many countries around the world.

These trees are also all over Los Angeles.  I was just there, and the trees were gloriously deep lavender at this time of year.

Although Pretoria, South Africa, is known as The Jacaranda City, Los Angeles bloomed intensely purple this visit.

These are the trees bordering the parking lot at The Huntington Library.

Underneath the trees, a purple carpet of blossoms coated the pavement and the cars.

Each blossom is itself a little beauty.

A blossom on my car

A blossom on my car

These photos don’t do justice to the way my blood vessels open wider when I look at a row of Jacarandas. Who needs a quarter aspirin a day if they have Jacaranda trees out their window?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Photographs

Meaningful–Or Otherwise–Spring Moments

I’ve broken out with Spring Fever and don’t want to work on characterization now.  In fact, I’m being downright cantankerous about it.

It’s not the sort of spring I used to wish for when I lived in Michigan. I couldn’t wait until the dirty snow and slush had dried up and disappeared and the green spikes of the bulb flowers were pushing up out of the ground.

You can tell when spring arrives in the southwest when you notice the snakes have woken up from their long winter naps and by the blossoming of the Sweet Acacia trees.  These events are accompanied by dirty desert air which coats my throat and sinuses.

We go all winter without having to worry about whether a snake in the yard means danger (the rattle alarm) or not.  Then one day in March there is a snake lying there on the ground, and I flinch until I know for sure.  King snakes are our friends; they eat baby rattlesnakes.

The Sweet Acacias don’t look much different from Palo Verdes or Mesquite trees, but their yellow blossoms smell so sweetly they make you feel sick.  So sweet they almost smell like garbage.  But I could tolerate that if they didn’t make my sinuses flow like Niagara Falls.

The allergist says that the reason the standard skin tests don’t include the Sweet Acacia is because it isn’t a specific allergen; instead, everybody is sensitive to it.  It’s partly to account for the high incidence of hay fever in the valley.

Here are the Sweet Acacia blossoms, which my husband calls puff balls, up close and looking innocent.

Still, it’s our spring, rattlesnakes and allergies aside.  And there are always the baby bunnies :).

4" long baby bunnyhiding in plant

4″ long baby bunny
hiding in plant

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction

Meaningful Moment in the Midst of Research

Deep in thought over my book research, I drove down the street.  Suddenly before me I saw a bare, but well-branched, tree hosting a covey of mourning doves.  I took the time to really notice them although they have nothing to do with my book.  I learned that important lesson last month from the Small Stones exercises, but also from watching Robin Williams’ movies 😉 (Dead Poets Society).  Carpe diem, I thought to myself.  I would seize a moment before I scurried back into the murky recesses of my mind.

The birds reminded me of Teresa’s comment on one of my posts the other day that she thought obsessions for trees and for birds might be connected.

My observation on seeing the birds against the clear sky was that they signify hope and faith in the wheel of life and how spring will rise to the fore again.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Research and prep for writing

Deviation and Beauty

The red maple up past the McKinley Elementary School playground on Emerson Street, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is etched on the backdrop of my mind like a permanent screen saver.  A symmetrical outline, the tree turned crimson every October for exactly one month.

As a kindergartener looking up the street from my Grandma’s side yard, the tree represented perfection to me.  The first time I noticed it was probably when I was pushed in my stroller up the street and someone, my mother or grandmother, gave me a red leaf from the ground.

Later, Grandma ironed one under wax paper for me to keep.

When my mother worked at Checker Motors and I entered McKinley school in the morning kindergarten, I stayed with my grandparents during the days.  I used to gather leaves from under the tree by myself.  Each leaf, shaped like a small hand, matched my own as I picked it up and placed it in my palm.

When I looked up into the leaves, the light sparkled, dappling my view of the world around me.

Red trees stir me with their deviation from the norm, their place in the firmament of “all things counter, original, spare, strange” (Pied BeautyGerard Manley Hopkins)  Like the passion of tender new peony shoots against a backdrop of green bushes, the red tree blazes against greenery, blue sky, or dreary human-drawn landscape.

***

On a related note, I am wondering if I am obsessed with trees.  I’ve written about the palo verde, the elm, the plum, and more.  If I didn’t have this paper trail of evidence leading me to the source of my obsession, I couldn’t have told you that this is one of my writing topics.  I recognize my obsession with writing about family and my childhood, but I didn’t see the trees until I looked back.

In her seminal book Writing Down the BonesNatalie Goldberg suggests:

Writers end up writing about their obsessions.  Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be leased.

She insists that obsessions have power.  “Harness that power,” she urges.

What are your writing obsessions?  If you look back at what you have written, can you identify an obsession you didn’t realize you had?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory

The Focus on Where I Am

When I walk outside in my Arizona yard I see the palo verde trees.

I grew up in Michigan where trees are real trees.  You probably know what I mean: oak, maple, birch, and pine trees.  They all have strong, symmetrical shapes–specific enough to be cookie cutters.

But here in the southwest, we have the palo verde, sort of a weed on steroids. This is a particularly bedraggled specimen. The outer branches and leaves of the tree are weed-like, fragile, with a few thin limbs over-long and droopy.  Nobody would want to make a cookie cutter out of this palo verde, and if they did, nobody would recognize it.

Like the scorpion and the rattlesnake, the palo verde is one of God’s creations.   This tree has been on my mind since I first moved to Arizona five years ago.

***

Focus

In this perfectly off-center palo verde tree

the digressions fall away.

Christ’s fourth avatar sleeps in a karated gold pagoda.

The pilgrims search for dust with a metallic taste.

A hummingbird’s snoop into yellow bells

transmutes into the clapper of the so-called miracles.

Well.  Miracles or mysterious occurrences,

maybe misreadings.

From this focus, the architecture is the tree,

a holy manger

nesting the saguaro cacti,

offering Eucharist for burros and jackrabbits,

sanctuary for the songbirds.

In my confusion, I read the wrong miracles.

God’s toolbelt begets stained glass

mirrors of beatitude, where incense

smokes through silver filigreed sieves,

fogging the view of the palo verde,

the Ark of the holy secrets.

Thank God toolbelts unbuckle, their great weight

tumbling down to the ground

from which the palo verde grows.

(published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Vol 3, Iss 2)

The “yellow bells” are the spring blossoms, which allow the palo verdes to compete with the fall colors of Michigan.  And while they will never be my favorite tree, their delicate fronds and flowers create a lively lace against the sky.

May at the Mayo Clinic, Phoenix Campus

May at the Mayo Clinic, Phoenix Campus

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Poetry

“Small Stone” in a Stand of Trees

Down the path I see trees–weedy looking desert trees.  I haven’t seen real trees like back home in Michigan since I was in California.  Is it this way all through middle and southern Arizona?

Cacti, creosote, and then the trees: mesquite, palo verde, sweet acacia (which makes everyone sick in their sinuses).  All self-contained and meagre, hardy, like you have to be just to survive in the desert.  By their very foreignness, the desert inhabitants make me homesick for my past, for a vision of Michigan that exists only in my memory.

Then I walk close to a tree and, gazing in, I see the tangle of life and in the confusion I see that this is the way it is meant to be.  Far off, the threads of memory, and up close, the everyday details.

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For more on “small stones,” you can read my first post on the subject.  It’s all about this: find a moment in which to be  mindful and record it.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Writing prompt