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Thursday, 18 April 2013


By Johna Ferguson

In the Pacific Northwest, we are surrounded by a large variety of trees - tall, stately evergreens in the forests and many kinds of deciduous ones in the cities. There are over 100,000 knows species of trees in the world according to World Resources Institute.

I’m sure you all have your favorite kind. Perhaps it’s one you remember from your childhood days. We had a huge maple tree in our backyard that my cat liked to climb whenever the dogs were chasing her.

Living in an all-girl neighborhood, none of us had ever ventured into the heights of tree climbing for our mothers all said it wasn’t what young ladies did. Back then, one always minded their mothers.

But we were allowed to rake all the leaves and even play in the huge piles if we again raked the piles back up.

When that maple tree became badly infected the tree surgeon said it must be removed. My mother naturally wanted another tree to replace it but instead of a huge one she bought a ten-year-old peach tree.

Sure, the cat could climb it, but we were all too big by then. I thought it was ugly for the leaves often had peach curl but I must admit the peaches were delicious.

When I went off to college, I remember seeing so many different varieties of trees growing on the campus. My favorite was a pine with the longest needles.

When I saw an old Japanese woman bending down for the freshly dropped needles I was curious so I stopped and asked her what she was going to do with the needles and she showed me a small basket she had made with them.

That reminded me of an old Native American woman at our beach making a willow basket to carry home the clams she would dig on the beach.

When my sons were in high school, we moved to a house that had a circular kitchen nook with a huge half-circle Plexiglas window. In the yard, a story below, grew a big Japanese ornamental cherry tree.

We sat one spring watching a robin build her nest and then lay two eggs. Watching them become birds and then the feeding of them was memorable.

Baby birds

Trees not only give some the fun for climbing but also beauty, shade, food, materials for making baskets, pulp for paper, wood for heat and building houses and for birds to make their nests in.

Then I moved to Qingdao, China where many of the streets were planted with plane trees like I often saw lining Paris streets. Beijing also has lots of ginkgo trees and I loved them for their fan shaped leaves.

In fact, one Christmas I asked my daughter-in-law if she would give me one for Christmas and plant in their yard so I could watch it grow. She’s a landscape architect and lives on 22 acres of land on a nearby island so I knew she’d find the perfect place for it.

If you were to ask me today what my favorite tree is I probably would say a madrona, those messy evergreens, forever dropping leaves and bark peeling trees. Their wood is almost as hard as iron wood and burns long and hot in a fireplace. They are not graceful like weeping willows but there is something so majestic and powerful about them.

But I still wish I’d been born a boy and learned to climb high up into trees and look down and occasionally spit on the fascinating world below.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Johna, until I read your story, I didn't realize how much I also like trees! I actually turn away when we drive near an area that is being logged. No, I'm not a tree hugger, but I have a sad reaction to seeing a tree cut down.

Johna, You didn't have to be born a boy in order to climb trees. I spent many, many hours sitting in the top of my grandmother's persimmon tree and playing my sweet potato whistle (ocarina). It had easy-to-climb low branches. I, too, love trees, and am blessed to live on the grounds of an old farm/mansion with lots of beautiful trees, my favorite being the Beechwoods that I often sit under while writing.

Oh I loved climbing our maple and guess I did not get the word about girls not doing that.

Much to my mother's consternation, I spent lots of time in trees. They always listened to me when I needed an "ear."

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