A fan of the tree.

I’m a fan of the tree. I have been since I was small. I love me some forest and I’m lucky; it’s only a stone’s throw away.

My childhood home had a yard full of trees. In my memory, the backyard was an ocean of grass and forest. I visited recently: where I grew up is not far from where I live now. The backyard was smaller than my memory suggested; it does not stretch as far as the eye can see. Nevertheless, the trees are plentiful. My memories got that bit right.

The tree fort my father built in the yoke of the three large maples that graced the back-right corner is gone but the trees remain, stretching high into the sky. The acacias seem closer together; I took more steps from one to the next in my youth.  They’re great trees, graceful and vibrantly green. I loved sitting underneath them in the summer, a book propped on my knees.

I’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t have trees. I’ve visited other places, other landscapes. I love the desert. I love the ocean. But I pine for the trees I grew up with when I’m away for too long.

My current home, my possibly forever home if for no other reason than moving does not spark joy, also backs on green space. I’m grateful. I’m a child of the suburbs so there are trees dotted about and parks within walking distance but a forest out back instead of neighbours feels luxurious indeed. Instead of fence posts and siding, I have cedar, pine, oak, and maple. Not to mention blackberries, ferns, and a plethora of the flowering plants that are ruthlessly removed when they venture into suburban gardens but rhapsodized over when encountered in the wild.

I like maples best. Not any particular variety thought the Big Leaf ones in the backyard are impressive. Something about the species calls to me. Even the Japanese ornamental maples appeal.

Perhaps it’s their personality. Maples are calm trees. They’re steady. They’re patient.

Some of the others are less pleasant.  Cottonwoods in particular get on my nerves. They’re aggressive and have a bad attitude. And they leave a huge, springtime mess.

It’s peaceful, sitting under a maple tree. I like to look up at sky through the leaves. I like to rest my hands on the trunk, feel the energy. It’s grounding. The tree requires nothing of me. Bliss.  

Twelve maples grow in a grove behind my house. I feel like I should have known their number before counting them today. Still, it’s a good amount. I’m comfortable calling the stand of trees a grove. It’s moved beyond thicket status.

The trees were big when we moved in; their stature is even more impressive twelve years on. They’re forty-five feet now or thereabouts. I have no idea if I’m a good height estimator or not. I assume I’m excellent but that’s because we tend to assume we’re excellent at things we’ve never been evaluated on. At any rate, they’re tall enough to worry me when they sway and dance in the windstorms that rush down from the nearby hills.

I wonder how much they weigh? I wonder how much it costs to rebuild a deck?

The maples are currently laden with helicopters; they’ll start flying when summer shifts into fall. Copious numbers will land in my yard, sending up a forest of seedlings that will fall victim to John Deere. I’ve also potted and gifted a few baby maples over the years. It’s nice, giving someone a tree of their own. It eases my conscience; I feel a bit guilty about the annual maple seedling cull.

I’m content when I’m hanging out with the trees. I’m peaceful. I laugh. I laugh at the squirrels chasing each other through the tree branches, leaping and diving with maniacal glee and little regard for the laws of gravity. I listen. Trees bring birds and their chattering and singing bring a smile.    

Hugging a tree can help fix a bad mood, though I make sure the bears who use the trees as a back rub have moved on before I settle in. And then there’s the oxygen trees provide. We’d be in a pickle without that.  

I worry I’m not bringing enough to the relationship. Perhaps I should send some money to some kind of tree charity?

I try to do my bit at home. I feed them new dirt from the compost pile. I bring them water when the drought stretches on. I trim the deadwood of snapped branches and limbs. I monitor for parasites and treat fungal infections. Cinnamon is a wonder. But we’re still not close. Trees give more.

I’m grateful to them for it. 

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