Archive for the ‘Personal Introspection’ Category

I wasn’t born with a predilection toward botany, despite what I’d like to think about myself. No, it most likely comes from my mom and her assistance in cultivating (pun totally intended here) my love for all things that spring from the Earth. Of all of the knowledge she passed down to me, this is the greatest and most timeless. Of course she taught me to be a kind and compassionate person to all things and other lessons that I carry with me, but her understanding and passion about the flora in nature has always been a unique facet in my life.

My earliest memories come from a little house my parents owned until I was only four years old. There I remember playing outside in the hot summer sun beneath the shade of the corkscrew willows that grew in our small yard. I’m told that there, on that tiny property, my mom had a garden in which she grew a variety of vegetables which she and my grandmother would later can. I don’t remember this as clearly as I would like to, but I was young– still the appreciation was part of me. We would go for walks (or rather my poor mom would carry me in a baby sling because I was a stubborn child) around the development where she would point out the flowers that grew at different times of the year, lillies, hostas, tulips and daffodils that the squirrels would transplant to obscure places around the golf course, wildflowers of all shapes and colors, and cat tails and pussy willows around the ponds. She would point out the weeping willows, to this day, my most favorite tree and the maples and oaks.

We moved from that small lot to a rural plot of land with acres and acres of trees surrounding it. I tell people I grew up in the woods and the often look at me with a questioning stare, “like Mogli, the jungle boy?” or, “so, you were raised by wolves?” No and no. However, I was blissfully surrounded by nature which became my refuge for nearly twenty years.

I am a romantic recalling the days of my childhood spent roaming that land. The property was covered with hickory trees and I learned at a young age that in the fall when you heard a rustle from above you had to practically run for cover or else you would be assaulted with hickory nuts falling from 40 feet above, some the size of my little fist in those days. I would traipse through the veritable forest identifying everything from the poisonous may flowers that sprung up as harbingers of spring to the wild black berries bushes that grew everywhere with pickers that caught my clothing as I sprinted through them. My Goddess were those the sweetest berries I’d ever eaten and I would fight off the birds to get my fair share! My brother and I would sneak onto my neighbors property and collect the odoriferous black walnuts or we would round up the monkey balls, also known as osage oranges (though they looked like hard, green brains about the size of a softball) , and try to break them open– such simple entertainment.

In autumn we would collect leaves; hickory, maple, oak, ironwood and on the most rarest of occasions ash. Most of the ash trees in northern Ohio had been hit by a devastating disease a few years before me moved to my natural sanctuary, killing nearly all of them. To this day if a tree falls on my parent’s property, my first suspicion is an ash tree as the culprit.

And so it was for years. When my husband and I moved to our apartment it was almost a traumatic experience for me. No longer was I enveloped by nature, the cicadas were quieter, the peepers almost nonexistent and the only trees were the ones planted by men to be more of decoration than anything substantial.

My spirit is innately tied to trees. They are as much a part of me as my freckles. In my silliest of reveries I day dream about being a nature spirit or dryad– leaving my tree companions was like a little death.  Therefore, it’s no real surprise that we moved when our lease was up- in January no less!

We looked at dozens of homes in which to raise our children. None of them offered the amenities I craved and I’m not talking about attached garages or number of bathrooms. No, I mean nature. We finally found exactly what we had been looking for. The house was smaller and it was in a subdivision, yet in spite of this the lot was almost three times the size of the typical properties in the area and it was littered with- you guessed it- large, full grown, mature trees. Four locust trees in the front and side yard, a cherry tree, a large full maple in the center of the back yard and a smaller one on the tree lawn, an ornamental pear, and a sweet maple in the back and two grandeous spruce trees that stand as sentinels at the corners of the very back yard.

You can barely see the house for the trees and that’s how we like it.

I was in tree heaven. I AM in tree heaven. Trees mean life. Cicadas, tree frogs, squirrels, chipmunks, and a huge variety of winged companions. I am surrounded again by my trunked and leaved friends and my soul sings with every rustle of the leaves in the summer breeze and every crackle of the branches in the winter winds. My excitement at the first signs of buds in March and childish joy at a the first leaf to change in the autumn are all things that speak deeply to my spirit.

The first summer here my dad called me one humid evening and left a voicemail. All that was on it was the songs of the spring peepers, toads and other insects singing their nightly lullabies. He said he did that because we had moved in the dead of winter and I had a fear of not hearing those magical sounds in our suburban home. I called him back and relished in the fact that I, indeed, could hear the sounds of nature even in this concrete jungle which put my heart at ease.

Over the next few years I would take my children outside for nature walks and outdoor explorations continuing the legacy of love, fascination and appreciation of the flora and fauna that my mom had instilled in me as a child.

On one such occasion, after collecting acorns and crab apples on cool fall day we were heading home. Some of my neighbors were outside and we stopped to chat about the weather and our upcoming plans for the colder months to come. My neighbor noticed the baskets of nuts and apples and asked us what we were up to. I told her we had been out exploring and I started talking about the trees in the area and how you could identify them. She was so amazed– admitting that she only knew the species that grew in her own little slice of the subdivision. I was floored! I couldn’t believe there were people out there that didn’t know about plant identification- the curvature sometimes gentle and sometimes sharp of leaves, the different patterns of bark on the trunks and the flowers, fruits and nuts that each produces as it cycles through the seasons. A life lacking in such knowledge seems so empty to me.

This year, after years of planning and research we finally put in a garden and despite the set backs; getting the veggies in the ground a few weeks later than ideal and the doe who jumped over the fence and ate the tops off of every plant, I have great pride in watching the plants grow. My heart swells with every change they undergo. I am a like a proud mama nurturing her rooted children to their full potential. Every new leaf, flower and subsequent fruit is momentous– especially when you consider my terminal brown thumb and the curse every indoor plant has experienced in my home. I had an appreciation for nature, until now I never had the ability to do anything but observe.  That is changing and it makes everyone in this home, each of us nature lovers, optimistic and more intimately connected to the Mother Earth.

Day 1- Getting the baby veggies in the ground.

Despite being ravaged by a hungry doe, everything is doing well and nothing has gone the way of my houseplants.

I am committed to passing down my love and passion for nature to my children. And even as we outgrow the home we live in currently I realize that we sacrificed the dimensions of our interior for something wonderful outside the doors. That’s what matters since we would all rather be immersed in nature than sitting idly in front of colorful moving pictures and manufactured sounds when we could, instead, listen to the animals outside and watch as the seasons change and teach lessons that are ancient and timeless. We are so blessed and lucky that our small piece of land attracts everything from ducks and deer to rabbits and owls. That is our entertainment, our joy and this knowledge and wonder is my legacy.

If there are no trees in heaven- heaven is no place for me.



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