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Inspiration from trees grows above poetry
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Inspiration from trees grows above poetry
"I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree." As a youngster, I learned about the Joyce Kilmer poem that includes this line, because my grandparents lived near Joyce Kilmer Avenue. I thought then, and I think now, that the line of the poem speaks the truth.
One of my earliest memories of actually thinking about trees is when I helped my dad plant tiny saplings around our yard. My dad said the trees would grow up as I did, and he was right, of course. By the time my parents sold that house, when I was in college, those trees had grown quite large. There was also a large evergreen that my parents planted when it was a pencil-thin wisp of a tree that my brother brought home from school on Arbor Day. We always regarded that tree as the marvel it was.
My favorite childhood tree was one that grew wild along the border of our yard and the adjacent woods. We hammered boards to the trunk as crude ladder rungs to aid in our initial ascent. We climbed, hid, plotted, wondered and lazed on the tree's massive branches, but perhaps the best thing about that tree was the trapeze we hung there. That simple steel bar suspended from ropes provided endless hours of fun and imagination as we performed feats of strength and daring. I still have a scar on my forehead from the day one of those feats of daring took a turn for the worse.
Later, when my husband, Brent, and I owned our first house, a visiting friend counseled us on how to prune our trees, which we knew nothing about. We trusted Eddie and followed him around the yard as he worked his magic. He made every tree look better, and every tree looked like it felt better. Since then, I have been a dedicated tree trimmer, and I think of Eddie's lessons with every branch I remove.
My uncle loves his trees too. He is 90 now and still does a fair bit of yard work and a fair bit of fussing over his trees. His pride and joy is his fig tree, a centerpiece in his yard and a testament to his Italian heritage. For many years, my dad had his own fig tree in our yard, comparing notes with Uncle Larry about how to protect the trees from the un-Mediterranean northern New Jersey weather. My dad grew up in Brooklyn and said you could spot the Italian neighborhoods by the fig trees planted there.
When Brent and I lived in Alexandria, Va., we were happy to take a cutting from Uncle Larry's fig tree, since the tree would thrive in the warmer climate there. And thrive it did. We even transplanted that tree from the first Alexandria house we owned to the second and enjoyed figs all the while.
We have been gone from there for nearly 13 years, and every year our former neighbor includes a mention in her Christmas card about how she still enjoys the figs from our tree. My sister and brother-in-law are still in Alexandria, and their fig tree is a wonder, indeed. Every summer it is heavy with sweet, delicious fruit.
Although we have to get by without a fig tree in our Geauga County home, we have planted six apple and pear trees and dozens of other trees of many varieties.
There is an evergreen that we planted when my son -- like my brother decades before -- brought it home from school as a pencil-thin wisp on Arbor Day. Noah was in first grade at the time. Now the tree stands taller than us. There are three white pines that we planted around the same time as that Arbor Day tree. We dug holes so big Noah's head could barely be seen over the top when he jumped in. There are the willows that grow amazingly fast, including one that was a cutting from my brother's.
Several of the maples in our yard began life in the woods behind our house. We transplanted them into our landscaped beds. Other trees were free giveaways from an event at Lake Farmpark, and some were free with our membership in the Arbor Day Foundation. Some harbor birds' nests just out of reach of our dog. Some have been home to huge hornets' nests. Many have lost branches in storms.
One of my favorites is the saucer magnolia that I meticulously trim each year to keep it looking like a tree and not the bush it seems to want to be. Its huge purple blooms are a highlight each spring.
My in-laws had a prized lace-leaf Japanese maple in their front yard for decades. When they both passed away, we planned to have that tree moved to our house as a memorial to them. The crew we hired to the do the job was honored to deliver such a beautiful specimen. But, alas, the tree had wrapped its roots around the main footer of the house, and it couldn't be moved without sacrificing one or the other. Instead, we planted our own lace-leaf Japanese maple, which in its own way serves as a memorial to Brent's parents.
Trees, which add simple beauty to any landscape in every season, provide so much more than just something to look at. It's no wonder they inspire poetry.
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