Trees Archives

Sunday Morning: the breathtaking vulnerability of trees

“One of my prayers is to have a view of a tree as I die.

I’m always super sensitive to and feel a special affinity to trees and though I am still mourning the loss of “my” pepper tree in Silver Lake, since then I have been graced with a eucalyptus tree, several birds-of-paradise, and now olive trees, fan palms, and bougainvillea.

Lying in bed reading the other afternoon, I looked out the sliders and noticed the profound beauty, the breathtaking vulnerability of a spray of overhanging grapefruit-tree leaves.

You could make a whole life out of watching the light filter through leaves, the gentle flutter of leaves in the breeze, Christ’s ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.'”

– Heather King, from her Frames blog post

Photo credit: Photo © David Whyte July 2014: Summer Light: Arnecliffe Church Yard, Yorkshire.

Wednesday noon art break: trees and cows


The best part of July 4th for me is always the Monona Art Fair in the Park. This year I purchased the above print from Tania Richley for my cubicle at work. It came with this quote:

Look to the Earth
And to the Skies
For in that which can be seen Without
Can true knowledge come
Of unseen mysteries that lie Within
To you who would be wise.

~ Kenneth Meadows

I know hump day is all about the camel, but I can’t resist posting this cow photo of hers. There is something gentle and soothing about cows. Somewhat ironically, my most frequent exposure to mooing cows was not when I lived in rural Stoughton, but during my senior year of college at UW-Madison when I lived in an apartment on Old University Avenue. The barn with the cows was across the way and I loved hearing the cows moo. It’s a good de-stressor.


Sunday Morning: outlaws standing on holy ground

4035625826_df8488e93e_o“God’s utterance is heard from the burning bush, telling Moses to take off his shoes. ‘You are standing on holy ground,’ the voice insists. I have always been compelled by the immensity of this biblical image and have long thought that Moses’ revelation was not the immediate shock of hearing God’s voice from the bush but the moment he looked down and realized not only that he stood in God’s presence but that he had been standing in that presence all of his life. Every step of his life had been on holy ground. The outlaw from Egypt was an outlaw because he had always felt the call of a higher legislation. […]

In a sense, at crucial and difficult thresholds in our life, the part of us that is most at home is the part of us that for most of the time has no home at all. The part of us that lives outside the normal rules. If we have no familiarity with this outlaw portion of ourselves in the normality of the everyday, then it can be very difficult to bring it to the fore when in the raw times of difficult change it is most needed.”

– David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

Photo credit: Marlene Evatt-Ansley on Flickr

Thursday Things

2696063138_d1c6725b3e_mBing told me today about the bristlecone pine.
The oldest one is 5000 years old.
More longevity than any other kind of tree.
It brings to mind my one and only line,
From my only stage performance.
Back when I was 8 years old:
“Green for the fragrant tree with hanging brown seed cones
that swirl in the wintry wind
with many whistling tones.”

Trees also received a mention in today’s Harvard Daily Stat:
“Research participants who were awestruck after gazing up at a grove of 200-foot-tall eucalyptus trees showed enhanced helping behavior toward a researcher who “accidentally” dropped a box of pens:
They picked up 10% more of the pens than did participants who had gazed up at a non-awe-inspiring tall building.”
Although I have to say,
If those pens were 60th anniversary Parker Jotters.
Or 1.0 mm tip Jetstream BLX Uniballs.
I’d pick ’em up too.
Tree or no tree.
And would hope I could keep more than 10% for me.

Came across an article that says close friends have 1% genes (specificaly, variants) in common.
This means our BFFs are the equivalent of 4th cousins.
Might this explain uncanny similarities?
“Friends shared enough genes to allow researchers to develop a “friendship score,”
which predicted who would be friends with the same level of confidence
as genetic tests for predicting obesity or schizophrenia. ”

The Greek church tells us today to just say no to yoga.
It’s “incompatible with Orthodox Christianity.”
Today’s Herald-Independent reminded me of the free
“Yoga Class on the Grass” at the Monona Farmer’s market.
Gotta go to at least one of those this summer.
Yoga is my kind of exercise.
You get a workout by barely having to move.

After reading the paper a flyer from Edgerton Performing Arts Center
Falls onto the floor.
There’s an arts center there? Who knew.
Youngest daughter spots the blurb about
Fireworks Ensemble.
The concert is January 30, 2016.
Can we go?
There is a cellist and flutist in the group.
So of course we will go!

Finished the novel Our Souls at Night
It’s by Kent Haruf, who, poignantly, finished writing it
Shortly before he died of lung cancer.
Two septuagenarians – a widow and widower – come together
To simply lie down together companionably at night.
Conversation and sleep.
A beautiful platonic friendship.
“After dark one night they walked over to the grade school playground and Louis pushed Addie on the big chain swing and she rode up and back in the cool fresh night air of late summer with the hem of her skirt fluttering over her knees. Afterward they went back to bed in her upstairs front room and lay beside each other
naked in the summer air coming in from the open windows.”

In closing, some words from our President today:
“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact
that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”


Photo credit: Mike Spinak

The tree’s way of being

treeEight or so years ago my late father planted this redbud tree in our front yard.

The tree went on to house several American Robin nests over the years, provided shelter to the birds that visited the feeders, and gave me shade as I sat under the tree and read or worked on the laptop. A pet parakeet, gerbil, and hamster are buried beneath it. It was a faithful tree friend.

Unfortunately the last couple of springs took a toll on the tree. Early warm weather followed by a cold spell resulted in fewer blossoms and leaves. This spring the tree had no buds at all. It died the same spring my dad died.

“I would like to believe when I die that I have given myself away like a tree that sows seeds every spring and never counts the loss, because it is not loss, it is adding to future life. It is the tree’s way of being. Strongly rooted, perhaps, but spilling out its treasure on the wind.”

-May Sarton, Recovering: A Journal


Tree Friends


4585079045_5fdcfeb3d2_qFortunately it is easy to make the acquaintance of trees in Monona, thanks to all the mature trees here. My favorite is the huge silver maple in our backyard that has provided shade, counsel, and held my children in a swing when they were little.

“To make the acquaintance of a tree is to gain the counsel of a wise and compassionate friend.” – Kent Nerburn

“To understand and appreciate the message of an old oak means more for a good life than all the books of man.” – Jens Jensen


“No matter where I live, I always try to make friends with a tree. I find them so much like us in so many ways. They have their feet on the ground, their heads in the sky. They respond to the movements of the wind, the changes of the season. They have moods, aridities, joys. They like company.

“In scale they are perhaps our most intimate companions: their lives are understandable in years, not aeons; their size in feet, not miles. We can watch them grow, give forth their fruit, send forth their young…Like us their roots are unseen, and no matter how glorious the front they put up for the world, their true strength lies in the hard word that takes place unnoticed beneath the surface…And they have about them a deep compassion. They provide rest for the traveler, food for the hungry. They will even give up their own lives to provide warmth and shelter for others. They welcome weaker creatures without asserting their power.” – Kent Nerburn Visit-With-Max-At-College-autumn-2010-184


Remember the storm that swept through here last week on the evening of June 8? There was an F1 tornado associated with that storm, which followed a path from Verona to McFarland. It also happened to be the anniversary of the June 8, 1984 Barneveld tornado, an evening I remember well because that storm kept blowing open the front door of our Stoughton home, a home which remained standing after that storm, but then was leveled during the F3 2005 tornado in Stoughton (dramatic video footage here).

Anyway, last week’s storm knocked down one of the trees in our backyard.

A normal person would have already had the tree hauled away by now, but it didn’t hit the neighbor’s fence or the power line, so we’ve left it alone for now because our two youngest daughters like to play in the “jungle” the fallen tree has created in our backyard (photos taken with my phone by my 9-year-old so excuse the poor quality):

The above photo may have given you the false impression that the green space is actually grass instead of the weed-filled rustic terrain it actually is. It would be unfortunate to leave you with that impression, so here’s a shot where you can see some of the weeds. Unfortunately the Creeping Charlie, dandelions and wild violets aren’t in bloom right now:

The jungle presents climbing opportunities that were heretofore unavailable:

Attempts to turn the jungle into a rain forest by using a sprinkler have so far been underwhelming, but the girls will probably try again.

Other advantages to the fallen tree:

It cuts down on the mowing I have to do.

It blocks my view of the “way back” of the backyard from the kitchen window so I’m unable to determine at a glance the height of the grass back there, which will cut down on yet more mowing.

It ultimately saves us some money because we were going to have that tree taken down anyway and it will be cheaper to haul it away this way.

Eventually the novelty of the jungle will wear off – probably when the mosquitos take up residence – and the leaves will die and it will look unsightly. If you know of someone who could remove it without charging a fortune,  leave a comment or send an email to info @