First of all, let me say, I’m not a tree hugger. Trees for me are a bane and a blessing. A bane because we have so many of them on our property and a blessing because of the maples. I also know that trees are a renewable resource and good people are making sure that trees are planted everywhere, every day, somewhere on earth. For beauty, shade, and yes, profit. Good for them. I chuckle because yesterday I was ripping out maple tree shoots with abandon. They grow like weeds if you let them.
So, why am I going on about trees? Because of one. The one I took this picture of yesterday while playing outside with two of our granddaughters. It sits a bit crookedly on a spot just up the rise from our back door. It’s huge and probably has at least fifty years on me. The base of the trunk swirls as though it was twisted by wind and weather on its way to the sky. It reminds me of the bottom of a ladies skirt. Yeah, like she’s dancing with a divine partner and her skirt is proclaiming her joy in the music.
And then there’s her arms. When our first grandchild was born we bought one of those yellow and red swings that need hanging from something – like the branch of a tree. So up hubby went on a ladder to assault one sturdy limb with ten inch bolts. And she took it. Then yesterday when Melodi and Sierra had turns in the red chair, I looked up. The branch had grown in girth and the wound of those bolts had healed right around them. Somehow I don’t think the laughter of many children beneath her colossal umbrella is offensive to her at all. No, like any good mother, the tree has accepted that wound and not held it against them.
The critters love Ms. Maple. Squirrels daily leap from neighboring trees and scamper down the massive trunk trying to beat the crows to the treats I’ve spread beneath the boughs. The crows land much higher and call to each other, “Breakfast!” as I scurry back into the house hoping no one will see me in my jammies and old blue bathrobe. On occasion a Cooper ’s hawk will land on a low branch with an eye toward one or two of the smaller birds that fly down when the crows and squirrels are done. It's hoping to make a meal of one of them. I did witness the execution of a dove once. Those hawks are swift and deadly.
One year dear husband came into the living room where I’d just taken the last bite of lunch. He crooked his finger, “Come here.” I followed him outside. “Listen.” I did. A steady low hum was coming from somewhere – the maple tree. “Look at that,” he said. “What do you think that is?” Turns out it wasn’t just a hum, it was buzzing bees. A huge mass of them were gathering just about mid-trunk where there’s a hollow perfect for a swarm to spend the summer. And that’s what they did. Gives me the shivers when I think about it. But the tree took that, too. I like to think some powerful pollination of local fields and flowers took place because of those bees. Sure hope so ‘cuz I wouldn’t let the kids use the swing that summer.
Come fall Ms. Maple changes her dusty green gown for one of red and gold. She doesn't wear it long for soon it slides down her gracious limbs and lands to carpet the earth. I get out the rake and load the trailer. Some years we make a Sunday afternoon of it with all the kids in attendance. The leaves are hauled and piled further up the hill with all the others from the yard and turn to unbelievably rich compost in a year or two. Last evening we spread some of it back under this maple whose soil is regularly washed away because of the angle at which it grows. We give back to her as she has given to us.
Okay, I’m not a tree hugger, but I’d make an exception for this one. Wouldn’t you?