Tag Archives: Trees

Burrata or blossoms

Usually you could have both, because the mozzarella store, Joe’s, in Arthur Avenue, is in so close proximity to the New York Botanical Garden, where the cherry trees are currently in bloom. The Sakura festival is upon us.

However, it’s 2:00, and “we sell out of the burrata early” says the counter man, not surprising when you consider how creamy, gooey, mild  and scrumptious is burrata. Joe’s has a wall of imported tomatoes.

Hoary cheeses hang above.

A picnic sandwich will have to suffice, al fresco.

It’s a good place to take pictures of people taking pictures. Everyone is doing it.

To hide behind the mysterious Prunus pendula.

We see a man juggling oranges as he walks along. And a mother with feet all dressed up for spring.

An artist named Yayoi Kusama had polka dotted the grounds. “Forget yourself and become one with nature!” says this mad person. “Obliterate yourself with polka dots!” Fabric stretches around the soaring red oaks. Patrons buy polka dot ponchos in the gift shop.

A funny combination. Blossoms.

And dots.

“Do these polka dots make my trunk look fat?” said the tree, smirking.

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The burden of Sisyphus

Sitting out on the balcony on a cool (80 degree) day in late March, my mother showed me a tree she called “the Sysyphus tree.” Rough bark, winding branches, small leaves aflutter. It has to be pruned twice a year so the sunlight will be allowed to poke through.

Rabbits run around the lawn below, which is a good thing for the owls that roost in the tree. My mother calls to them, and they call back, when they are not being sullen.
My mother (her pic) has gotten to know the owls quite well. They disappeared when my father went into the hospital four weeks ago, and didn’t return until today, when I arrived. Sysyphus was condemned to rolling a boulder up a mountain. Late life illness is a burden everyone should be spared.

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Oak makes headlines

That is, when the trees are centuries-old and are being harvested to rebuild the spire of Notre Dame.

They come from a former royal forest, and the process is beginning with a 230-year-old Sessile oak tree, Quercus petraea, with 1,000 more trees to be collected by the end of March, before the sap rises and the wood contains too much moisture. They’ll be air dried for 12-18 months before being cut into shape. This lumber will replace other lumber that was centuries old.

Most are perfectly straight and large enough to support the weight of the spire, the result of careful work in a forest that originally supplied timber to the French navy.

Oak trees have been central to French culture forever. There was a custom traditionally in French villages called affouage — residents could cut an allocation of firewood from communal land every year. The trees would be marked accordingly. Even now, though they look natural, the oaks in French forests were planted deliberately. They are regularly culled so that the straightest, fastest-growing and healthiest remain.

If you’ll remember, the cathedral’s original roof contained so many oak beams it was called “la foret.”


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The virtues of age

Like some other people, maybe, the older I get the younger I feel. It doesn’t matter that I can no longer leap over a wall with only a hand to support me — oh wait, could I ever do that? — or that I have a brain fart now and then. In my mind’s eye I am as juvenile and smart and sassy, not to mention as beautiful, as ever. Does everyone out there feel this way?

It makes me think of a certain tree.

This grande dame is an olive tree that is 3,000 years old — the oldest olive tree, I think, in the world — and she is still producing olives. Funny, she looks to be all root. Maybe rootedness is what preserved her.

Yet young trees are as admirable as old ones. An old tree fell across the street from my house, and it was replaced by this sweet little weeping cherry.

No, she’s not going to produce olives anytime soon, or even cherries. But seeing her keeps me young.

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To live inside a tree

The story of The Cabin is one that you might typically find in this blog. Being inside it always felt like residing inside a tree.

Early spring at the cabin

The mystery behind it: it wasn’t originally built where it is now, but carried to its place in the Hudson Valley over seventy-five years ago. It was the kind of job that only a twenty-something with a lot of energy would attempt. In 1935, at the height of the Depression, a young man managed to move it, lock, stock and barrel, from the Delaware Water Gap to New York. Two rooms, one upstairs, one down, no indoor kitchen or plumbing. Built in the 1780s, the structure stood for a century and a half before it was dismantled log by log and transported a hundred miles to the east. The story goes that he relocated to be near his aunt, who lived just across the swamp from where the little cabin now sits atop a small hill. Someone else might question why anyone would move an ancient structure with all its dents and wrinkles, rather than just build anew. For me, it makes perfect sense.

Original Delaware Water Gap site

The past for me is a series of mysteries within mysteries, endless Chinese boxes. In my work, and in Blog Cabin, I try to crack these open. You go into a mansion of a hundred rooms, say. Enter one room to start. What furniture is there, what hangs on the walls, what style is the hearth (there are as many kinds of hearth as there are houses)? Are the walls plaster? Is that a series of framed miniatures hung beside the mantel? Whom do they depict? Outside, on the façade, do you see Georgian brickwork, Tudor stone or simple clapboard? Dark wood, probably chestnut. Of course, learning all of this detail serves to unlock the character of the people who live inside. And we haven’t even gotten to the petticoats yet. If ever I haven’t made progress in my writing, I have a simple solution. Do more research. A surefire remedy for writer’s block. Life is more exciting too if you track down the history of the thing.


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