Posted by: Memorizing Nature | May 1, 2010

How Do Trees Stand It?

"They are normally spiky, not curvy like hips and guitars." Photo by E. Medline

The best of cedars are stately, but even the scrappy ones carry a coniferous dignity. Their fibrous bark holds them steady. Their smell seeps into groundhog holes, drifts upward to scent the clouds. Elsewhere, such softwoods are lined up in military form – unnatural fences that darken paths, the ones forced into conformity. “Beware the mad shears,” they whisper, as they are so close together there is no need to shout. “Tuck in your plumes.”  

If these suburban versions were like the walking trees of Costa Rica, they would do a bunk off their roots.

I remember my schoolgirl days, every day wearing a green tunic uniform and knee-high woolen socks with folds under the knees. Worn heels on scuffed black oxfords, comfortable and the same. Looking back, it wasn’t so bad. Our weekend clothing was just as uniform – baby blue painters’ pants, for instance. An insincere costume, as we carried no hammers, not even paint.

Cedars are meant to have room to photosynthesize, grasping for the sun, not tucking in their appendages as if out of shame.

They are normally spiky, not curvy like hips and guitars.

They are grand inside and out, from trunk to branch. A hedge is cosmetic, boasting a perfect exterior while hiding the dying interior – an irony, since the insides die only because they are hidden. Really, these hedges are an anathema to hard-earned evolutionary and aesthetic success. People might think that cedar trees don’t exist, only shrubs, their stunted variation.      

Another school, this time in England. During the mandatory hot lunches, we were expected to eat everything on the plate, even the chili, with its sandy-textured kidney beans. The canned mushrooms, separated off to the side but sometimes mistakenly chewed. The rice pudding, puffy with pale raisins. Once, I threw up on my hands, and was only then excused from the table that had long ago emptied.   

I work in a cubicle, with high walls but clear transmission of sound. What would happen if I climbed up on the desk and danced? If I sobbed daily? If I set up a hammock, or just one day left and never returned? Some cedar hedge owners give up easily on the trimming. They’re lazy, or desperate, or simply have other priorities and distractions. Maybe they lost their scissors, who knows?

Then the tiny branches sneak out from their form, forgotten, thus free.

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  1. What delicious descriptive language. I can breathe in the scent of cedar and feel the texture of the needles in my fingertips.
    I am eager to read more.

    • Kathy, thank you for your kind comment. I’ll be posting every week (I hope), so check in now and then for more!

  2. Beautifully written – really gets me thinking about nature in a different way. I wonder, what would happen if you climbed up on your desk and danced one day?

    • I would get promoted? Kidding aside, thank you Suzanne, for the compliment. Nature is beautiful, so it’s not difficult to write about it.

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