A tree grows in Seminole Manor Neighborhood.

January 1, 2013 § 11 Comments

Live oak in Seminole Manor Neighborhood.The live oaks of Seminole Manor Neighborhood and I started life at about the same time; the early nineteen-fifties.

I was in Pearl River, New York, weed-skinny, and casting a modest shadow, but aspiring toward the sky.

Here in Tallahassee, surrounded by just-built stucco cottages intended to house the officers of Mabry Airfield, the young live oaks were doing the same.

We were all brand spanking new then: me, the houses, and the live oaks.

While they stood in sunlight and rain, I learned to walk, to ride a bike on a gravel driveway, to zip a snowsuit. I wasn’t here to see those saplings, but I can imagine them,  scrawny and vulnerable to one good whack with a lawnmower.

At about fifteen I reached the height of five foot six and stopped. At fifteen, the oaks were just becoming sturdy, about as big around as I was. Not imposing yet, but hard to overlook.

By then the airfield was long closed, the cottages repainted different colors—maybe some of them were growing too, with tacked on rooms and sun porches.

By the time my husband, daughter and I moved to Seminole  Manor more than sixteen years ago the oaks had caught up. Like me they had reached their mature size.

Our new neighborhood was anchored by these grand old oaks, and by a handful of elderly women who had moved to the neighborhood as brides. For all I know they, or their newly-minted husbands were the ones who planted the trees that had drawn us to this particular neighborhood.

Like the trees, I considered those widows the guardians of the neighborhood, and it crossed my mind fleetingly that I’d like to become one of them if that much time ever passed.

The last of those women to go was Jewell Harrison who died at eighty-nine. My favorite neighborhood tree stands in her yard although she once told me, “You should’ve seen it when my kids were small. It had another limb on the other side. We hung the swing from it.”

Like those grandmotherly women, the trees are going. There’s something about the erratic weather, the droughty summers, that is taking them out. The insistent growl of a chainsaw in the neighborhood breaks my heart.

Sadly, no one seems to be planting more live oaks. Instead they are planting fifteen year trees like dogwoods, and non-natives like crepe myrtles, trees that give near instant gratification, but will never cast the kind of shade that cools a house or spread limbs strong enough to support a swing.

We are doing far better when it comes to replacing those rooted sturdy female guardians of the neighborhood. In fact there are more of us than ever.

Collectively we run an in-home library for the neighborhood kids, make daily rounds to pick up trash, build and tend community gardens, keep an eye out for what doesn’t look right when we walk the neighborhood, and look in on sick neighbors.

What we need now is a tree planting project, one that will put trees in the ground we will never see reach their mature height, but that will be waiting for the next generation of neighborhood grandmothers to grow up.

We owe it to a girl who is still several Christmases away from her first two-wheeler, we owe it to Jewell Harrison and to ourselves.

Nothing commemorates our time in a place as well as a tree.

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§ 11 Responses to A tree grows in Seminole Manor Neighborhood.

  • Craig reeder says:

    Live oaks are the heart & soul of this town. What a great, inspiring idea to plant new ones. Please let me know when it’s time to take the shovels out! Boy, is that ever a wonderful way to “pay it forward!”


  • KM Huber says:

    I, too, am a fan of the live oaks, and like you, I am increasingly concerned they are being replaced by trees that are, as you say, capable of producing gratification much sooner. But your post gives me heart for I am confident that your neighborhood that does so much for so many will surely find a way for its live oaks. It is the stuff of which you all are made.

    Happy New Year, Adrian.



  • KSK says:

    Plant young live oaks. Sounds like the perfect wish for the new year. We can make it happen. We can do anything!


  • Seminole Manor sounds wonderful, but then I love live oaks as well.

    As we drove around The Villages looking for the perfect place for our new home in 2003, we spotted a lot with two majestic live oaks shading the back of the lot – 150 year-old trees.

    “This is the place,” we both said. And this is our home now. The trees are actually on the golf course behind us, but, according to our contract agreement, we take care of them. We trim suckers and dead branches, harvest moss, watch the birds perch, listen to squirrels chattering to each other as they gather acorns to rebury. I’ve discovered that squirrels love planting trees. Bless ’em!

    Happy New Year!


  • Sheila says:

    Your column reminded me of the first time I saw early pictures of Tallahassee’s historic Brokaw-McDougal House. I was stunned to see that not only was there no grass, but only a few little twigs peeked out of the earth! No trees! As compared to its gracious, current landscaping–and many live oaks. I always assume that landscapes are as they always have been. What was it about those early citizens that prompted them to lovingly plant and nurture the sloooow growing mammouths? Did they not know how long they took or were they really planting for posterity? Maybe a little of both? But I loved your comparison with your life. Thanks for the smile.


  • This helps us branch out – I dig it Adrian.

    This month our county is embarking on the Adopt A Tree Program:

    Also, the master gardener program in our county may be able to send a volunteer tree specialist to talk to your Front Porchers about trees when the planting occurs.

    Love this blog. We planted a fig tree in early Dec.
    A leafy new year to you!


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