Other Wind
01 / August01 / August01 / August

Tree House


Ecotone Topic—Trees and Place

Trees lined my babysitter Mona’s front yard on both sides, each one a different type, and one large tree stood apart from the others at the top of the yard by the fence and the road. I remember a walnut tree—its shells on the ground underneath—and a weeping willow. I can’t remember what types the others were. Tracy and I, and sometimes other kids, played house with those trees in the summer. We each claimed a tree as our own for the afternoon. We’d visit each other often, of course, to pretend a lunch or play tea, but then we’d return home and stay alone for a while.

At the willow, we’d try to swing on the drooping branches and fail, but I still loved the willow. Its lashes formed a swaying wall around me, and inside its cave I felt removed from the rest of the yard, secret, in another place all together. I also loved the tree at the top of the yard, huge and alone, its shaded ground the best throne this world could offer, and I a tiny queen underneath, surveying Mona’s yard from the slightly higher ground into which it had taken root many years ago. We would cartwheel across the entire yard with that tree as our destination, as our mark of accomplishment.

The early real estate deeds at the Archives where I work mark boundaries with trees. Surveyors used them as solid and permanent fixtures on the land. Steel posts mark my property now, but my home is still defined by trees. Returning from a far off wonderland, I am warmed by the sight of leafy trees carpeting hillsides or of stark bark in the winter spiking up from the ground, intermingling shards slicing the air. And then just add the wind. When it blows, the leaves and the moving air give each other voices, and their sound calls me back, interrupts my messy mind for a moment or two so I can live here, now.

Less often than I should, I lie beneath a tree and search up through its leaves and branches, peek at bits of broken sky above. From my point of view, close and surrounded, the green of leaf and blue of sky are on the same plane, forming one mass of color. I am still and under cover, playing house.

Read a passage from Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, in which the narrator describes the fairy tree of Domremy.

Read a poem I wrote remembering those times in Mona’s front yard.

I have often said that the quality of my life is directly proportional to the amount of time I spend lying outdoors on my back, looking up. Like you, it has not been enough of late.

Posted by: fredf on August 1, 2003 08:23 AM

Yes, we are tiny queens when we're "inside" trees - these images and memories really resonated with me. And I have been staring at the gorgeous images at the head of this piece - those pinks and rose colors - absolutely beautiful, first thing this morning. Thank you.

Posted by: beth on August 2, 2003 10:44 AM