Thursday, December 9, 2010
...A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain...
My mother used to recite the whole of this poem to me. As a little New York City girl, I never gave much thought to trees. I didn’t give much thought to outside. As embarrassing as it is to admit that, it’s true. I preferred books to parks, ceilings to sky and museums and the ballet to pretty much anything else, unless it was a restaurant with cloth napkins, waiters with white aprons and a shirley temple, two cherries, yes, please.
That was then. Now is now. And I love the Monterey Pines that shelter my walks, as if they grew there just for that, and the Live Oaks that must wish the pines would give them just a bit more space so the sun could touch their branches too. This time of year, where the oak leaves cover the paths, it’s like whole banks deposited their gold coins in gratitude.
My first trees were the Redwoods. Not the first trees I’d ever seen. Not the first I’d climbed. But the first I could say that in any way I loved. And I hold a boy named Patrick Brady responsible. When I was in 7th grade, Pat and I used to walk from my house to UCSC—the letters really stand for University of California at Santa Cruz, but they were quickly usurped to mean Uncle Charley’s Summer Camp. It was a long, uphill walk not to a small enclave of buildings but then to an assorted few buildings in the midst of a huge forest.
We’d finally get into that deep forest where the trees were slender giants, the ferns enormous green fans and the air was thick and smelled like mint. We’d sit down on a mossy log or lean against a tree together, close together. And kiss. He was my first kiss. I associate Redwood trees with his kiss. They are one and the same.
If you’ve never felt the bark of a Redwood, you really ought to. It’s got a softness unlike any other tree I’ve ever met. The bark is fibrous and tender. When you lean against one, you feel first a cushion and then the firmness of the unbelievably tall tree behind that.
Last Sunday I went up to campus; I’d not been there for a long time. Parking on the 5th floor of the garage, I got out of my car, stood in the stairwell as students hurried by, leaned out to the Redwood trees, breathing and remembering the whole forest of them.
Not only did I go back to my early adolescence though. I didn’t have to go nearly that far. In the back-backyard of Michael’s childhood home, there’s a cluster of trees that his parents planted a long time ago. Today, those Redwoods are so tall you have to lean your head way back to see the sky they touch. I wonder, might Heaven have Redwood trees?
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 6:03 AM