Tuesday, 9 August 2022

My image of a tree

My image of a tree is probably like that of yours. Trees are tall and green. They have roots and trunks and leaves or needles. Leaves vary in size and shape and most of the time in the Autumn, leaves turn red, yellow, and orange and then fall to the ground. Such is an image of a tree.

Seeing a tree is not knowing a tree. I’ve been surprised many times by trees. For example, I always thought that a pine tree was an evergreen. This means that the needles are green all year round. The opposite is a deciduous tree, meaning that at a period of leaf maturity, they fall off. Leaves may look dead and ready to fall, but some fall in the Autumn, some fall in the winter and some fall in the Spring as new leaves appear. Back to what appears to be an evergreen tree, but isn’t. It’s a needled deciduous tree or more commonly known as a larch. They are quite beautiful in the Autumn sunshine as shown below.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about trimming and cutting trees. The first time I came across decorative trimming was in Paris where square trees were common along major streets like the Champs-Elysees. I was accustomed to trees being trimmed to get rid of overhanging branches or to avoid power lines, but until being in Paris I had never seen such creative cutting.

Here in Panamá, I have discovered square trees. Unlike those that are trimmed to appear square, these trees have square trunks. They grow only in an area of Panama called the Anton Valley which is actually a volcano crater to the west of Panama City nearer the Pacific Ocean side than the Atlantic/Caribbean side of Panama. The volcano lost its lid thousands of years ago and then became a lake and later a homeland for an indigenous people. Its descendants largely still populate the valley along with newly arrived expats from the United States and Canada. Its appeal is tropical forests and rich soil for farming.

The square trees remain mysterious. Scientists from the University of Florida apparently brought saplings back to Florida and they all died. The scientists concluded that the environment and volcanic soil are keys to the square trees’ survival. Anyway, it took me 66 years and a move to Panama to learn that not all trees have round trunks. Here they are!

To say the least, my image of a tree has changed dramatically over the years but be that as it may, I think trees are quite beautiful, each in their own way. How can I not conclude with one of poetry’s greatest contributions?


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer (December 6, 1886 – July 30, 1918)

Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

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