Growing up as a boy on 100 acres of land, much of it wooded, I can assure you I never thought at all about the pruning and shaping of trees. While my dad would annually trim and maintain a very long and eye-appealing pine hedge that ran in an L shape around the contours of our large lawn, I never considered that as more than the ‘maintenance of the evergreens’. Meanwhile, the tall and supremely giant oak trees that anchored the front lawn and behind the house were never things to even consider adjusting as they were almost forces of nature. The sprawling towers of limbs and leaves allowed for some of the fondest memories from childhood.
The only time that I recall Dad getting anywhere near one of those oaks with a ladder was when he assisted in my determination to save some baby red squirrels that had been jostled from their nest in a wind storm. I still recall the hearty feeding of warm milk that Mom had heated on the stove, and dad fed with an eye-dropper while holding the small creatures. Then with care he got up into the tree with the ladder and tried to aid in helping the parents locate their young ones. That is surely one of the best summations of the care dad had for animals.
My favorite times with those oaks were spent in their shade while reading a book. The massive one to the south-west of our home was where James Bond first came alive as the pages of an Ian Fleming drama unfolded. Only a few feet away was a long wide strip of flowers that mom tended, the colorful blooms seemed ever-present and at times the scent of the flowers would waft on the breezes that made the tree leaves rustle. (Pictured above is the place I sat as a boy–and stand as a man.)
What has taken me back to those days was watching a maple tree being structurally pruned in our yard this afternoon. It was 11 years ago this summer that I dug a truly impressive hole to allow for the root ball on a tree, which was roughly my height, to be placed in the ground. A neighbor on the next block offered us the tree after we moved into our home, carting the large container in a wheel barrow and then assisting as we positioned it correctly into the hole. With the love of trees that was passed down from my parents–meaning the watering and adding nutrients to the soil– the maple tree is now about 35 feet tall.
Several months ago James and I returned from Friday night shopping and noticed a note placed on our front door. A young man–who is a forester and is named Forrest–had walked countless times by our home gazing up the tree and, while admiring it, also noted it needed to be pruned and allowed to grow in a more healthy fashion. Today he brought over his equipment and made climbing a tree look like what it takes for me to mow under the tree–seemingly effortless moves.
At times I stop and reflect on why I find pleasure in this or that–what has created the man I am today? When I look at the maple the answer is easy to find. That maple is one that has cast shadows in summer afternoons on the Adirondack chairs which are placed on the lawn, and which make for a perfect place to read and enjoy a cup of coffee.
So many years have passed from the boyhood home, where under another tree, I found so many pages to turn. The pattern of my life in countless ways revolves around the simple pleasures and constant connection to the memories from yesterdays.
That is what I call being rich.