I went to Coney Island to survey trees first thing this morning. At that hour the streets were empty and Luna Park smelled like fresh paint – the season is coming soon enough. The Cyclone was ghostly, silent.
You might be surprised how many trees there are at Coney Island. I saw some soaring oaks. Of course concrete predominates. But then, as seven rolls around to eight, life breathes into the barren streets. People start to come out and about. Music floats out of car windows, even Motown, somewhat surprisingly. Teams of men are washing windows on some dingy high-rises. Chain-link daffodils bloom gaudily.
I went around thinking about beauty in the fresh sea air, about the window washers on those dingy high-rises working to let more beauty in, and the people that planted those bright daffodils behind the chain-link. I exchanged a shy smile with my fellow boss in orange, the female flag person directing traffic.
We all want beauty. I’ve learned so much about what is gorgeous looking at trees. I am coming along in my ability to identify species in the up until now cold weather. And it’s come to a point where I’ve decided that trees are not lacking when they don’t have leaves yet, when they are out of season. Really their beauty is more pronounced when they are bare. I do like greenery and I do like soothing shade, but I love bark, like the diamond furrows of this ash.
You have to lay your hands on it, don’t just use your eyes. Here’s a lilac tree.
And don’t you just want to touch the patchy orange-gray of this zelkova?
Look at the impressive sprawl of this london plane.
I have a book called Bark and that’s what it is all about. Very niche, quite nerdy, and just up my alley at the moment. Most bark, it is true, is similar, gray and furrowed. But if you pay attention, if you truly want to learn, then you begin to see the differences.
Now as spring progresses I’m seeing new movement among the bare ones. Mysteries, to me, since I am so new an arborist. Open yourself to me! Tell me what you are.
Or lush cherries coming into blossom, their buds like paint brushes dipped in fuschia.
Some trees, I know, have flowers that actually open on their trunks. Now that’s beautiful.
5 responses to “The Beautiful Sea Air”
I like your Dad’s focus. Funny. I am new to your blog and am way happy to have found it and you. Reading The Orphanmaster now and savoring every bit of it. I ordered three more of your books. Can’t wait. Used to go to Mary Immaculate and into Ossining for ballet lessons with Iris Merrick…and to pick up some guppies in the pet shop around the corner.
Very beautiful, Jean. I love bark, too, and growing up always thought of London planes as hairless cats, elegantly nude. I will try to go beyond the London plane in my bark identification and beyond the leaf as key identifying feature. You seem like a very wise arborist to me.
Did you find any place to get a good hot dog for lunch?
So beautiful when babies though…
today I picked up from our county extension office..my new trees!! we order several varieties..when tree are young they are mere sprigs. It is so remarkable what they become.