Thursday, July 21, 2011

A poem lovely as a tree

When I went with my sons' class to Washington D.C. this past June, I remember being grateful for the trees along the walk to the Lincoln Memorial.  The rest of the Mall is smothered in hot sun, but the walk to the memorial was cool and breezy.  For some reason, all those biblical praises of the "Cedars of Lebanon" kept popping into my head.  I could imagine all those desert-dwelling Israelites praising the shade trees.

Now that it's pushing 100 degrees here in Pennsylvania, I don't know much about the Cedars of Lebanon, but I'm very thankful for the Sycamores of State Street.  Along the campus walk, athletes and construction workers are taking noon-time naps out in the shade of our college's trees.  My home is cooler because of the poplar and oak on either side of it.  These trees were planted long ago, but the shade and cooling they provide on these hot summer days is still here with us.  (We have no air conditioning, not even window units.  The trees are an important part of our passive solar cooling strategy).

I think this is part of the reason I just hate shopping malls--the parking lots are vast tar pits with no shade in sight; they're a place where people go to bake their cars while they spend their money.  Locally owned stores, at least in my area, have tiny parking lots (if any).  But even if you drive instead of walk to these, there's often some shady tree to aim for.

Last summer I planted some fruit trees around my yard -- there's a peach tree shading my southern window, a pair of apple trees tucked in sunny corners of the front yard, and a fig tree working its way up along my chimney wall.  Those trees have borne fruit this summer -- not enough that I recouped my investment yet, but there's promise for the future.

This evening, the boys are playing with a friend in our back yard, moving between a wading pool (I trash picked it last week) that is under our poplar tree, a tree house we had built as an adoption gift, and the shaded lawn.

Summers are a rotten time for planting trees -- fall and spring with their cooler wetter weather are much better.  So trees are a great example of frugality: their plantings took a bit of up-front foresight and work followed by years of patience.  Almost makes you want to be a tree hugger, doesn't it?

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