Thankful For A Single Tree

Bald Cypress

                I look at trees every day as a birdwatcher, but I don’t really “see” the trees.  Recently, a friend from Colorado has been e-mailing me of her encounters with various trees and this has prompted me to look at trees a bit closer.  Our native trees have been beautiful this fall. Not just beautiful, but spectacular: the brilliant yellow of the cedar elms and the big tooth maples; the reds of the cypress and the Texas red oak; the intense scarlet of the aptly named flame leaf sumac.

                 I had intended for this month’s blog to be a celebration of central Texas trees showing the rest of the country that:  “Yes, we do have seasons down here.” Driving down nearby streets, the colors would catch my eye and I would tell myself, “I will come back tomorrow and take photos of that tree.”  I kept telling myself I was going to do this, but I kept putting it off. Then, a few days ago I noticed that the tree colors were less vibrant and more leaves were falling off the trees. I realized I was missing, may have already missed, my opportunity. I thought I had already learned my lesson years ago when I did a lot of nature photography:  Take the photo now! “The sky will not look like this tomorrow.”  “That bird may not be in this spot tomorrow.”  

                This is a pattern of mine throughout my life, to plan to do something and then not follow through and then the opportunity has passed, never to return. There is a feeling of shame associated with this habit of procrastination, and a feeling of sadness.   

                On the 13th of this month while surfing the internet, I learned of the death of author Gary Svee. He was someone I had intended to contact.  I wanted to ask him about why he wrote what he did about an ancestor of mine.  I had been given a phone number of someone who knew him and was so anxious about calling a stranger out of the blue that I kept putting this off.  I put it off for a year and a half. Now it is too late.

                I went to his online memorial page and left a note. On the page it said that people were being asked to donate money to plant a tree in his memory. So, I did that.  There is some sort of meaningful connection between the tree leaves transitioning and people transitioning that I am trying to grasp as I write this.  The book of fiction this man wrote was entitled Single Tree and painted a sympathetic portrait of part of my family tree, a great, great uncle.   I wanted to thank him, whether or not my thanks would have been welcome by him. But, I didn’t do this. He will never know what his book meant to me. Maybe he wouldn’t have cared.  I cried when I read that he had died even though I had never met the man. I think maybe I cried more in disappointment at myself.

                So, I share with you here some of Austin’s color and my advice to take action. Colors don’t last. Lives don’t last.

*Obituary for Gary Svee can be found at:

https://smithfuneralchapels.com/book-of-memories/3924750/Svee-Gary/

(Tree photos by Betty McCreary)

Prairie flame leaf sumac
Sycamore- leaf snowbell
Big tooth maple

Grateful for a Blind Dog

My husband and I live with two old dogs and an old cat. One of the dogs, Dash, we inherited from a deceased family member. We had always said, “If any thing happens, we will take care of little Dash.” Dash is 13 going on 2. He is short and looks like a fuzzy tater tot. In July Dash went blind in one eye. Three weeks later he went blind in the other eye. I have never had a blind pet before and it is a challenge. He responds to our voices and he knows the house and yard pretty well. We are careful to not move things around.We keep track of Dash’s whereabouts so he doesn’t hurt himself. When he starts to rock and roll in the early morning, one of us has to take him outside to go to the bathroom. Sometimes I feel a bit trapped with the care routines between him and our other ailing dog.

But, last week I took Dash out at dawn. Groggy and a bit resentful, I looked up to see beautiful streaks of pink jet contrails and a silver sliver of moon. This was a special dawn sky that I would have slept through. I am grateful for getting to see this awesome scene, that except for Dash, I would not have experienced. Our little, blind dog is my guide these days.

Jet Trails and Moon Sliver
(photo by Betty McCreary)

An Ode and An Apology

To Our Hackberry-

You have rough bark and sandpaper leaves

Smooth sweet berries

A stately trunk and a huge shade giving crown

What a magnificent species you are

Oh Sweet Sugarberry

Host to Hackberry butterfly larva

You provide a strong safe route for

Squirrels from roof to yard

A place for the anole lizard to “show his money”

And the grasshopper to rest

You plant yourself and

Thrive, next to most any other plant or structure…

You do not discriminate

But love the one you are with

Prolific, you are a survivor

I admire your tenacity

Hackberry Growing Up Through Chili Pequin Bush

Apologizing to Our Hackberry

                I  apologize for wanting to chop you down. In the 18 years we have lived in this house I can never keep up with all the yard work I feel a need to do. Weeding and pruning. Never ending. I have pruned you sneaky hackberries over and over again. You grow so fast, disguised among the other, wanted plants. I didn’t plant you and try to keep you all at bay. But, you, the one by the back porch: I let you grow at the request of my husband about 5 years ago. Now you are almost 30 feet tall and your crown is almost 20 feet, providing good shade for our back porch.  You are massive.

I apologize for cutting down your parents and aunts and uncles and siblings and kids.

Lately, my husband and I have regular conversations about whether or not to chop you down.

We haven’t decided yet. I apologize to you for even bringing this up. My personifying you and my guilt about the chopping thoughts may yet keep you alive. ___________________________________________________________________________________

Note: Versions of both the Ode and the Apology were written 4 years ago. After one Spring of our porch and patio furniture being drenched in sticky tree juice, we had finally had enough. We chopped. I couldn’t bear to part with all of the tree.  This is what is left in 2019: