September 27, 2012 § 6 Comments
Sunlight streams through their variegated green and white leaves, making them glow as if from within.
Awed by their vivid aliveness, I do the only thing I can think of.
I tear off a leaf and eat it.
I still remember thinking, this is what green tastes like.
Although I no longer taste green so literally, green is what I turn to when my life force feels dim.
My mother and I had a long-standing debate about God’s finest work. She contended it was us, human beings. My vote always went to the trees. To me they possessed a deeper wisdom, a steadfastness, that made us seem shoddy by comparison; the paper cup of creation.
I know it appears that they are just standing there, but each living being exists with its own sense of time. The tree has no use for the frenetic pattern of human life. It moves and changes with the days, the seasons, the decades.
If trees perceive us it all, it is probably with the detached tolerance we feel when watching ants, seeing us for the blind travelers we are.
The first tree I remember clearly is a giant quince on the same property where the hostas grew.
Although in my memory it never grew a single quince, it accommodated all the neighborhood kids in its branches. My mother used to joke that the fruits of our particular quince were dangling bare feet. I felt sorry for her. As the adult she never got to be one of us, a barefoot kid sitting in the arms of a tree.
In my present neighborhood, a neighborhood of old trees, they are the guideposts for my days. I look up into them as I walk in the morning, watching the light catch in their branches. I come out of my house at sunset and stand in the middle of the road to be wonder-struck by the brilliant stained glass of sunset leaded between branches.
I know them as individuals like the Southern Magnolia two doors down with its impenetrable shade, or the Live Oak on the corner that extends one black, twisted branch that looks as if it were painted on the sky with a sumie brush.
The trees that are unfortunate enough to have grown in the right-of-way have been pruned so hard they look as if they are shrinking back in horror from the power lines. We make trees accommodate us, because we can, but thinking of ourselves as the owners of trees is sheer arrogance.
We cut them down, as if they were of no consequence. One of my neighbors limbed an oak down to the trunk because it shaded the lawn. Then he put one of those stupid tree faces on it (eyes, nose and mouth nailed into the bark).
It took the tree a while to realize it was dead. It sent out spindly shoots from the top of the cut trunk like green hair, but that was a while ago. The bark is now falling off, but the lawn looks good.
We gravitate toward green that has been tamed. Like lawns. I am guilty of taming green too. I grow vegetables. There is nothing as satisfying as putting seeds in vermiculite in winter and watching the summer garden raise its pilot leaves to the light.
Gardening is a way of becoming part of a calendar that is millions of years older than the rigid, manmade one we observe. My father, also a vegetable gardener said, “When I’m too old to plant a garden I’ll grow a tomato in a pot on the windowsill.” That connection to the real calendar is hard to give up.
Walking takes care of my body. The quiet benediction of green takes care of everything else.
And when I can no longer walk, I’ll sit beneath a tree and look up into its leaves.
Green is the color of life.
Note: These photos, like most of the photos on Slow Dance. were shot by my husband, Ray. Another lover of green, he still picks leaves off unknown plants and tastes them.