I’ve been a book reviewer for years, most recently at a literary website called LitStack. This is how the book Seeds, by Richard Horan, came to my doorstep, waiting to be read. It’s a non-fiction book, a memoir of sorts, about the author’s journey to travel around the country collecting seeds from the trees that have influenced notable figures in American history, primarily literary heroes, but a few entertainment celebrities, as well. You can read my book review here.
I’ve always loved trees. I can’t think of any place where I feel more at peace, more relaxed and at home, than in the middle of a lush green forest. Trees are so dependable. (Barring a hurricane or chainsaw, that is.) They’re always there, standing guard, quietly observing, often for hundreds, even thousands of years.
Horan’s book got me thinking about the trees in my own life that have influenced or otherwise made an impression upon me. Mostly the trees at my grandparents’ houses come to mind. Both sets of grandparents lived in the country. At my mom’s parents’ home, I remember two gigantic weeping willow trees, their unseen roots surely stretching beneath the ground to the nearby pond. Many a picnic and photo session took place beneath those behemoths. There was an orchard – peaches and plums – but I especially recall picking bucketfuls of sour cherries with my grandfather from an old but determined tree, its branches gnarly but its yield prolific. At my dad’s parents’ place, a sturdy maple tree stood like a sentinel beside the driveway. During my entire childhood, I recall a swing, handmade of wood and rope, hanging from a tall branch. At my own childhood home, two impressive pines grew near the property line. Beneath their boughs, I played with my friends. One low branch was the perfect height to practice chin ups and pull ups for those dreaded presidential physical fitness tests in the 70s. We buried my first pet, a cat named Minnie, at the base of one of these trees, because she loved to climb them. Atop a hill near that home, a boyfriend once carved our initials into a tree. I wonder if it’s still there. And I remember fondly, this time of year, scouring the woods and collecting perfect leaves of red, orange, and yellow. We’d bring them home and iron them between sheets of waxed paper. That’s one thing I miss, living in the south – the colors of autumn.
Years ago, I wrote this poem about a stand of virgin timber in a place very dear to me, Swallow Falls State Park, near Oakland, Maryland. This poem has won awards and been published in a couple different places.
The air smells of childhood memories,
wood smoke and wildflowers,
dampness, primordial decay.
Distant sounds of rushing, roaring river beckon.
Pine needles cushion rocky, rooted paths.
Slippery sage moss clings to
icy trickling springs.
Ancient ledges beg exploration.
white pine and hemlock,
ache for long lost solitude,
I have a stamp with which I emboss my name into books that I know I’ll want to keep indefinitely. I try not to be a pack rat, so very few books I read are stamp-worthy.
Tell me about the trees that have been special or noteworthy in your life.