September 27, 2012 § 6 Comments

In one of my earliest memories, I see a crowd of hostas beside a squat brick stoop in Pearl River, New York.

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.

Trees in general, and individual trees, have always felt like friends.

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.

But the green that means the most to me is not the one I plant in hopes of summer tomatoes and winter kale, it is the wild green I find as I walk the world.

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.

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§ 6 Responses to Green.

  • ahh… fresh and pine/magnolia/quince scented thoughts from a keen observer who is one with Nature, twinned with photographs from her partner who is… likewise! A lovely gift for the start of the weekend, a time when many folks can only begin to get out & enjoy what daily morning & sunset walkers in these neighborhood woods of Our Town revel in often.


  • craig reeder says:

    that last picture was beautiful. is that a long-leaf pine?


    • Yes. Long leaf pines go through a multi-year phase when they appear to be a grassy tuft, but below ground they are getting their acts together, big time. All of a sudden, they bolt, growing as fast as they can to rise above the height of the average forest fire. The tree in the picture is in that vulnerable bolting stage.


  • KM Huber says:

    One of my favorite moments is the first time I watched wind currents within a magnificent oak. It was such a symphony of limbs and branches. Every time I look at a tree, I check to see what’s playing.

    Together, you and Ray have given us such a lovely post. I agree that we are a “paper cup” in comparison.



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