Wednesday, August 29, 2007

?I think that I shall never see??


By BETTY BELL

Betty Bell

During my pre-adult years a beloved maple tree grew alongside my second-story bedroom window, and it became the first of the more than a smattering of trees with which I've—well—bonded. I flat out bond with trees. I liked my maple's helicopter seeds and its red leaves in the fall to take to school to show my teacher. But the real reason I bonded with that maple was practical—its branches would be my escape route if mother ever restaged the drama she'd orchestrated the summer dad worked in Alaska. As was her way, she was reading and smoking in bed, but this time she fell asleep.

The night mom set her mattress a-smoldering I think it must have been an alert patron saint that popped her eyes open before things got deadly, and her scream popped our eyes open, too—we three sisters—and we leaped from our beds and dashed to mom's room and yanked off the bedding and threw it out the window and doused the mattress again and again with glasses of water and manhandled the smoldering mess down the stairs and pushed it out the front door and then mom made us drag it out back so neighbors wouldn't see it in the morning.

Our mom was some kind of reader, and she was some kind of smoker, and if ever again she fell asleep while indulging these pleasures I could count on the maple tree.

The thing is, one doesn't need to be at risk to bond with a tree—I don't doubt there are at least a few others who share my propensity to bond—but we're very shy about it. We bonders are just a subset of the main group—the tree people. Tree people plant trees in their yards and nourish them and carefully decorate selected ones at Christmastime. Some tree people even put trees into pots and bring them into their parlors so they can be close by, but I learned this is the wrong thing to do a long time ago in a casual conversation with a horticulturist who all of a sudden lowered his voice so I'd have to listen-up and told me, There's no such thing as a happy potted tree. This is unsolicited enlightenment, I realize, and I'm sorry if it means that from now on you'll cringe at every potted tree you see.

Bonding comes about when we of the subset chance upon a tree that for one reason or another draws us to it. But it's such a personal thing it's not likely you'll ever catch a bonder bonding.

One of my bonded trees grows just below the Proctor trail we used to access by turning left behind Trail Creek Cabin and then going up through a lovely section of forested switchbacks. My tree started out in a just-right sunlit site, and it grew massive Schwarzenegger arms of which one faces the trail and is upturned as if it's flexing its muscle. I have seen wondrous things upon this arm: Once a great horned owl whose long unwavering stare outlasted mine, and then the most wondrous thing—a bobcat I spied only because the two magpies accompanying me for suet hand-outs landed right alongside him. The mags' eyes were riveted on the suet, so they were oblivious of the cat, and the cat only had eyes for me.

I was a little shook, and I backed away ever so slowly, back clear around a bend—my dog would be just right for a bobcat tidbit.

So, yes, I talked to that tree when I was in the neighborhood, and I had flattering things to say.

Another of my bonded trees is in Adams Gulch. It's the biggest tree you'll see, and about shoulder height it branches into two trees, each as mighty as the other. When I'm on my bike I ride right up alongside and lean against it, and then I look both ways to be sure the trail is clear and give it a sort of pat-hug and tell it, "Good tree ... good job ... you're a beauty." The tree is just below the trail not far along Sunnyside—perhaps you know it—and I pray it's in a spot that survived our holocaust.

Before our fire I did not pay much attention to the forest. You might say I couldn't see the forest for the trees. But these days I see the forest ... and it clutches my heart ... as it does yours.




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