Friday, October 5, 2007

Up There

This is one of my favorite trees. I think we should all have at least one tree to love in our lifetime, one tall, strong presence to be there for us on good days and bad. This grand oak is right in the middle of my lawn. He’s visible from every front-facing window.

In the summer, my boys and I picnic under our oak, spreading an old flannel sheet out beneath him. On nights of the full moon, we spill a few drops of maple syrup on the roots in gratitude for the shade and beauty he’s given us. When the boys and I are angry or upset, we tend to burst out of the house and plunk down under the tree until we remember the lessons from the living wood: patience, quiet, resilience. The gnarled roots reach out through the soil and create a cozy seat that invites busy people to rest against the trunk for a while.

What you don’t see in this photo is the dangerous herd of squirrels lurking overhead. They have nested in the branches of all the trees in the neighborhood, squeezed out of their calmer habitats from constant ripping and roaring over at the giganto-condominiums springing up nearby. The gray squirrels have become strange and scary. They chew Halloween pumpkins to bits and gnaw through industrial garbage cans. Weirdest of all, they have a vendetta against tulips. Every spring, they eye the growing flowers, poised to attack at the moment of tulip blossoming. With uncanny timing, they shear off the heads of the brilliant crimson and yellow bowl-shaped flowers and leave the decapitated remains to spoil on the battlefield. I wonder if they stamp little tulip-shaped X’s on the treetops, to signify their victories.

When we walk beneath the oaks in the fall, the squirrels aim their sights on us and release a vicious battery of acorns at our heads. They chase us across lawns and down the street, our hands flailing uselessly over our heads to ward off the missiles. At night the squirrels delight in denting the cars with the acorns. You can hear THUNK! THWOMP! until dawn. I have no love of squirrels.

I am happy to report that I took this photo unscathed. If I don’t report back soon, however, please send a few large, vicious cats and dogs to search for me. I might be held prisoner of the squirrels, bound and gagged, on some lofty branch high up in the old oak.