How Trees Help Us Connect to Ourselves and Our World
Jason's Special Tree
I have a number of trees that have been special to me, and I've also been gathering memories from others and remembering the important trees I've come across in children's literature. I wish I had pictures of all the old trees from my childhood, but back in the 1940s people rarely took pictures of their trees. They were just a part of life, constantly there and in the background, important, but taken for granted, like so many other things we only notice after they are gone.
The tree in this picture is one my son Jason loved. That's Jason, hanging from this tree he loved to climb, regularly pruned with a tree saw when he was older, and under which often met with his friends. It was under this very tree that he told me he'd be moving way from his then foster home next door,not yet knowing that this tree would soon be his. You can read that story here.
Trees play a significant role in our lives and help us make memories and connect us to people and places.
Do you remember a special tree from your childhood or is there a special tree in your life now? Did you used to hide in a tree or climb a tree? Was there a tree where you and your friends used to play or just hang out on your special branches? Was a tree your 'jungle gym"?
Perhaps you have a special tree right now. It might be one you planted and watched grow for years, or maybe generations. Maybe it's a tree you drove through at a national park. Maybe it gives you delicious peaches or apples every year. Or maybe you can see it from your kitchen sink and watch the birds that spend time there. Maybe the only special tree you had in your life was the Christmas tree around which your family gathered during the holiday season.
Christmas Trees are Special
A tree can help one connect with friends.
More Special Trees
This pepper tree lived in our backyard in Newbury Park, behind the house we lived in before moving here. It became a special place for Jason and Danny because it was a private place they could furnish as they pleased and just hang out together. They did finish it, but I don't have that picture. I do know they hauled an old TV up there, and I have no idea how they planned to get the electricity to it. They hauled various "necessary" objects up there, but I never got up to inspect it.
When I was in my grade school years, I also had a special tree in my back yard to climb. I and my closest neighbor friends each had a special perch in that tree that we claimed. When we just wanted to hang out and talk away from the world, we climbed up to our personal branches and stayed there as long as we wanted. Those were the days when kids still had free and unstructured time to play -- no organized sports for grade school age girls back in the 1940s and 50's.
By the time I reached high school, we had moved to a home without so many trees. The most special tree to me during those years was, believe it or not, in front of the administration building at Bellfower High School. It became a meeting place for me and my friends after school every day. We would gather to talk until the last bus was ready to leave most days, as we waiting for some who were in athletics to finish their extended school day.
Under that tree I first saw a friend actually and literally ROTFL -- only it was the ground -- not the floor. I also saw the one of us who was really interested in biology pit a bumblebee against a black widow spider in a jar while we watched to see which would win. I asked this friend tonight through his Facebook page if he remembered what kind of tree we gathered under. He said he is pretty sure it was a sycamore tree. He probably was the only one of us who might have taken note of such things. To me back then, it was simply OUR tree. Today I can't remember how large it was, only that it's where friends got to be better friends.
I feel sorry for kids who have never had a special tree in their childhood.
My special tree at Lawrence Moore Park in Paso Robles - It appears I'm not the only one who claims this cottonwood tree as special
Lawrence Moore Park has access to the Salinas River Trail in Paso Robles. It's only three blocks from my Paso Robles house. All of us in the neighborhood walk there. My preferred walking time is around dusk. This cottonwood tree lives in the park, and I walk by it several time a month. I observe it over the changing seasons. During the summer I saw these kids in the tree as a walked by. I was happy to see them enjoying it. It would not surprise me if it is a special meeting place for them. They were delighted to have me take their picture and said I could post it on line.
Did you have a tree you loved when you were growing up?
Trees can help us connect with the food we eat.
This Always Reminds Me of My Apple Tree
The Apple Tree I Loved
There was as much of it outside the picture as in it. I say it was, because it no longer looks like this. It got too large, and its branches became too heavy when its blossoms became fruit that last year, and its trunk split from the weight of the loaded branches. How I wanted to save this fruit, even though it appeared the tree was doomed. But none of it ripened as we'd been told it might. I will show you ways we tried to save the tree in the photo gallery below. Though we have two other apple trees, one just planted about three years ago, neither has meant to us what the red delicious apple tree has. We mourned the loss of this tree even as we attempted to save it. I am so glad I made a hat from the pictures of its blossoms when it was still in its glory. Now it is a reminder of those years. I told the complete story of this tree in my gardening blog.
This apple tree is the last in a long line of fruit trees that have been special to me. When I was very young, Victory Gardens were all the rage. It was patriotic to have one during WWII, and that is where I first learned the connection between trees and yummy fruit. My favorites were the Babcock peach tree which produced sweet white-flesh peaches, and the Santa Rosa plum tree. As I grew up, I learned exactly when the fruits were just at the correct degree of ripeness to taste the best. I have wonderful memories of walking through my backyard in the summertime and grabbing the best snacks right off the trees.
I never forgot that house or its fruit trees. Once you've tasted fresh fruit at the peak of ripeness right from the tree, you lose your taste for supermarket fruit. As soon as we had our house in Newbury Park where we had room for fruit trees, we planted a Babcock peach, a white flesh nectarine, and a Santa Rosa plum, and we didn't need to buy any fruit when they were bearing. We also had a tasty apricot tree and I learned to make both apricot and plum jam. In the picture below, you can see the apricot tree in it's dormant state when it was fairly young. The orange tree, however, was my husbands favorite tree. It came with the house. I probably only took its picture because of the snow. It doesn't snow more than once every ten years or so in Newbury Park. This was in February, 1988, the only time it snowed while we lived there. It didn't bother the tree.
Hubby still misses that orange tree. Its fragrant blossoms scented the air in winter even as the previous year's blossoms were maturing into large navel oranges that reached their peak of ripeness in late spring and early summer. My husband is determined to grow such a tree here, where the weather is really too cold for it in winter.
We Can Grieve for Trees
What happened to my apple tree - Apricot tree becomes more specialClick thumbnail to view full-size
New Life in My Delicious Apple Tree - It may live after all.
Will the Tree Make It?
It appeared my favorite apple tree had survived. It did blossom after all, and, as you can see, it produced new leaves again.
Rejoicing Over Little Apples on the Damaged Tree this Year - It appears this tree had a strong will to live and bear more fruit.
Sometimes Our Hopes are Disappointed
I did a happy dance when I saw these healthy little apples start to form. We thinned them so as not to strain the tree too much. But were delighted beyond words to have them there after we thought the tree was doomed.
Unfortunately, after all our efforts and hopes raised by these small apples, they never ripened and the tree died.
Have You Ever Grieved Over a Tree?
Have you ever lost a tree you actually grieved over losing?
There is a Time for Everything
Trees are my daily companions. These are the ones I live with.
We have a clump of large trees up close to the house and our neighbor's mobile home that have been here long before me. Each day as I go to the warehouse to get a book or to the storage shed to get supplies or stored food, I pass these trees.
One of my favorites is this tree that guards my book warehouse -- that tin shed behind that moving truck. The tin shed is tall enough to have an upper level and so we put an attic in it. Do you see how the tree towers over it. I love that tree. Its branches used to go all the way to the ground, but my husband decided it needed to have the lower branches trimmed away. I think it looks a bit bare now. I hope this stately evergreen will return my love and not ever fall onto the shed behind it. I hope it is rooted more firmly to the earth than some evergreens. This tree gifts us with a supply of pine cones each summer, but the birds and the other critters get them first. We don't mind. It's a tree's nature to give.
The Giving Tree is one of my favorite books.
Why not buy a copy to give to someone you love ?
If any book captures the spirit of man's relationship with trees, this simple picture book is the one. The tree gives to the boy, and then the man, throughout it's life, and then continues to give when all that remains is the stump.
Trees help us connect with ourselves.
Trees encourage us to think deeply about our connection to other living things.
Compared to any tree that's been around as long as I have, I'm a small creature. When I go out to my book shed, the evergreen you saw there makes me feel pretty insignificant in comparison. I often think, as did the Psalmist..."What is man that thou art mindful of him?" I consider who I am in the sight of God and where I fit into the world. I marvel at how God takes care of trees and how determined they are to survive and produce fruit. I marvel at the palette of colors they give us as the seasons change, and even as they wear their various shades of green. Seeing the trees often brings back words of Scriptures that apply to me, since both Jesus and the Psalmists used trees to illustrate their stories and poems. Any person who really looks at a tree and lets himself think cannot help but reflect on its beauty or ruggedness or some other of its attributes and wonder about his own character or personal resourcefulness.
The tree above is on the hill behind my church. Most of the year it sits there by itself invisible unless someone comes to see it. Last December it provided the setting for a wedding. Our sunrise service is usually held near it on the hill. But most of the year only the cattle who graze near it see it. The tree doesn't care. It's not there to call attention to itself, but to glorify God, who made it. It challenges me to do the same.
Trees and Memories
Do You Have a Special Tree?
I'd love to have you share why a tree in your life was or is special. Did you play in it? Eat it's fruit? Or was it a scary tree you had to walk past? Any and all tree memories are welcome, or you can just let me know you were here.
© 2011 Barbara Radisavljevic