Thursday, July 16, 2020


I had a touch of Sadness on my walk today. Yet another of my neighborhood's towering old trees is being taken down a few blocks away from my home. It was a lofty silver maple, many stories high, its trunk straight and true. There was no way to tell why it was coming down today after decades of life. It looked tragic and undignified standing there, stripped of all its lower boughs and branches, like an old man who was nearly naked in front of a crowd of onlookers who weren't going to help him, but merely look and move along.

I have a special affinity for trees. One of the things I like best about my neighborhood is that its streets are tree-lined, and the trees are old and big and gracious. They have an almost paternal feel, as if they are sheltering and protecting the homes and sidewalks they shade. While I walk my route, I often reach out and brush the leaves of trees or pat their trunks. I notice their changes--or their staid, static presences. In the spring the flowering trees bring me incredible joy. In the fall the colours of the trees never fail to awe me. In the summer their green abundance makes me feel content and serene. 

My deep affection for trees was fostered by my father, who truly did love Nature in all its forms. Our back yard was a Nature Preserve in which he fussed over his roses and his trees with equal adoration. My father was the only person I ever knew who watered his mature trees. We had a huge maple, a box elder, a cherry tree, an apple tree, a weeping willow, a locust tree, a plum tree, and a peach tree, and those were just in the back yard of our tiny bungalow home. He never had a sprinkler, either. He'd just turn the nozzle of the hose to a fine spray, prop it up on a brick, and let it run. I can see him in my mind's eye, patting the huge split maple on its grey trunk and saying, "It's been hot with no rain. This tree needs some water, too." 

But my father didn't only love his own trees. Often, when we went to visit my grandmother and grandfather--my mother's parents--Dad would get bored. Much of what they talked about concerned people he didn't care about or know, and it didn't do a lot for us kids, either. My father would say, "I'm going to take the kids on a Nature Walk." I loved these walks, which went all around the quiet tree-lined streets and alleyways of my grandparents' neighborhood. We would stop and smell flowers and tree blossoms. We would find and look at seed pods or other interesting things. And when we came to some strong, old trees, my father would stop. "Look at this old tree," he'd say. "Look at this bark and its good straight trunk. Can you imagine how old it is and what it's seen? Why don't you give it a good hug?" 

Other times, he'd talk about the shape of the crown of the tree or if the tree needed to be pruned and why that was important. If it was a really warm day, we'd often stop and sit in the shade of a tree, right on someone's lawn. My father didn't worry about such things. "Feel how much cooler it is under a tree?" he'd say. He loved leaning against tree trunks, resting his often sore back, feeling the strength of the tree. I loved these walks, these times with my father, and my love for trees grew, too. 

Today on my walk it was warm and humid. I chose the shady side of each street, welcoming the cool dim shadow of the trees as they gave me respite from the summer heat. I reached for the soft fringes of the magnificent pine on the corner, marveling at its new growth. I noticed small pods of buckeyes already formed on the tree a few paces away. I smiled at the crabapple tree full of chattering sparrows, barely visible in its leafy crown. 

It's been hot here lately. The trees need water. I hope it rains soon.


Thursday, July 09, 2020

If Only Masks Filtered Out The Stupid

I was subjected to this conversation in the waiting area of a medical center this week because I had to finally have my overdue appointment with my neurologist. Unfortunately, it is a shared waiting space with another practice in the same conglomerate, but physical distancing was possible. Audible distancing was not, however, so while I filled out some repetitive and useless forms, I could not help but overhear this discussion between a woman (probably in her sixties) and her elderly mother, who was the patient.

We join it as I did, already in progress.

Daughter: It's the destruction that I don't get. Why destroy everything?

Mother: Well, what'll they come for next? Disney World? Disneyland?

Daughter: It's better ways to get your point across is all I'm sayin'. (at this moment, I glanced up from my forms and she looked my way) That's my personal opinion.

Mother: Have you thought about supper?

Daughter: I want to get stuff cleaned out of that fridge. Pulled pork. The rest of that potato salad.

Mother: There's not nary enough of that potato salad for more'n two people.

Daughter: Well, we're gettin' rid of all of that stuff. I have a delivery comin' tomorrow. I sure will be glad when I can just go wherever I want to go whenever I want to go. It sure would be nice to travel. Get back down to South Carolina.

Mother: It's down in South Carolina, too. The virus is all over the country. It's everywhere.

Daughter: I know. (big sigh) At some point, you just gotta live your life, you know? You just gotta live your life. That's just how I feel about it.

(Both pause while they consider this philosophy)

Daughter: Dogs are lucky, though! They already have a vaccine for the Covid.

Mother: What?! Are you serious?

Daughter: Yep. Says so right on the package: protects against fleas, ticks, heartworm, and the Covid. Course it's not the same Covid as we humans get, but it's still the Covid.

Mother: Well, I'll be. Course isn't everyone worried now about the H1N1 coming now, too?

Daughter: And the Ebola! But those are in Africa right now. OF COURSE. That's where it all starts.

Mother: (shakes head) Like we don't have enough goin' on right here, right now.

It was at this point that I finished my paperwork, so I took it up to the window. When I came back, it was mere moments before I was called in to my appointment. As usual, it was delightful; Dr. B. and I dispensed with the business end of my visit quickly and efficiently and spent a good long while chatting about other more pleasant things. He continues to be a light in my life.

But my time in the waiting room impressed upon me that my vote just got more important. Smart people everywhere need to vote.
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