The Library Tree, and Other Friends

I met a new tree tonight. He* was a stately tree, with a trunk that looked about a foot in diameter, branches that didn’t start until five or six feet up—I wouldn’t have been able to climb—and that stretched out about six feet all around him. He was purposed to provide shade for readers-out-of-doors. I know that because he was right outside the library. This has been a week of chilly grey days, and this evening was no exception, so I didn’t sit down underneath his outstretched branches with my book. I got in my car and drove home, thinking of how much I want to go back and get better acquainted later in the springtime, when it’s warmer and sunshinier.

I make friends with trees easily. And even if I don’t get to meet them, there are so many trees in Denton that I see as I drive through my neighborhood. They are all so different. Some are evergreens, which doesn’t mean much when the Texas heat turns their needles to brown in July, and their lowest branches are higher than the roof of the house they stand sentry beside. Some are stately oaks. I saw one tonight whose trunk was three feet wide. He’s sure to be among the older trees in Denton, and I’m certain I could learn some fascinating local history from him, if he could speak my language (or rather, if I could speak his). Some trees are unassuming, and probably make the best friends to young children. Their branches begin low and are far apart. They’ll make great climbing trees, if you manage to befriend the squirrels who call them home (I don’t recommend unauthorized treespassing; those squirrels are nutty). Still some are eye-catchers, such as the purple leaf plum trees, whose deep purple leaves bloom from pink flowers. I love them all. They are possibly my favorite markers of the changing of seasons. The young green of baby leaves in springtime; the deepening of the green throughout the summer, from May’s forest green to September’s hunter green; the changing of the leaves in autumn, as the trees begin to show their true natures and reveal their hidden beauty; the vulnerable, bare branches of winter—I love the role trees play in marking the passing of time.

I delight in the beauty and stateliness and wisdom of trees. I don’t really understand why. I don’t believe it’s been a lifelong fascination; it seems to have grown and blossomed in the span of my adult life, which has also been the span of my Christian life, minus a few months. I imagine my love for trees is connected to my new life, and while I have some piece of an idea, I cannot comprehend it well enough to put it into words for you. Tolkien’s childhood experiences and his Tom Bombadil have certainly compounded my warm feelings for the natural skyscrapers of the God-breathed world, but were not the source. Those wonderful poems we call trees are a significant part of the longing I feel deep inside. I love them and all echoes and vestiges. Art and jewelry that depict trees, leaves, or branches have always been my favorite. Really, truly, I would love a bouquet of brilliant autumn leaves more than most any flowers. And one location on the top of my vacation wishlist is a redwood park out west. While so many dream of or enjoy vacations to the beach or the mountains, I just want to go to the woods. Find me a quiet cabin surrounded by trees just far enough apart so that some sunlight creeps in, and I could be content for a very long while, especially if there is a significant reserve of good books.

Though I don’t make a habit of, reading seems like a pastime best suited for the shade of a tree. To me, books and trees are inexplicably linked. Flicking the pages of a book somehow reminds me of the wind rustling the leaves. I have loved books all my life, and maybe that’s why I can befriend trees so easily. It’s also part of the charm of my new bookish friend.

In any case, the Library Tree has a new admirer in me, and I mean to branch out and visit him with a book in hand on a warmer day.

*I assume most trees are sirs, with the exception of the blooming trees, such as the redbuds and whitebuds. I realize that is a generalization.