The first task in my new tree project is finding the two trees that ‘speak’ to me. Then I want to unlock their mysteries. Why do they appeal to me more than the other trees? What are their specific qualities and stories? What does folklore or even medicine tell us about them?
My most favorite trees have always been the paper and Himalayan birch trees. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the name “birch” is derived from an old Germanic root, birka, with the Proto-Indo-European root *bherəg, “white, bright; to shine.” Perhaps birch trees remind me of my own roots. They certainly were part of my childhood’s landscape. To me, the bright white bark and ocean of golden leaves in fall of paper and Himalayan birch trees are symbolic for light. Always in search of the Light, I find myself easily attracted to their ‘light’.
Paper birch trees bring back memories of my father telling me about his time in Norway and Finland during WWII. Times were hard, food and supplies scarce. That included stationary. Difficult circumstances often produce brilliant ideas. My father and some of his friends harvested bark from the paper birch trees in the region, trimmed and flattened it, and converted it into post cards. Thus, the birch trees helped lessen the worries of the men’s families at home when they got news that they were alive and well.
My research on the Arbor Day Foundation website was somewhat disappointing, but not a surprise. Paper and Himalayan birch trees thrive only in zones 2 to 7, not zone 8 where I live. Therefore, I may set out to find a more heat resistant cousin of theirs, the river birch and, in addition, a live oak tree. But for now, I want to leave my options open.
Next week, I will meet with the horticulturist of breathtakingly beautiful Middleton Place Plantation and Gardens, one of my favorite hang-outs for photography. I am hoping that he will be able to help me in my search for the right trees, and that he will become my ally for the next year.
Meanwhile, I’d like to share this little tree poem with you. It is funny how things work sometimes, but my tree research brought my attention back to an old and long-forgotten book of family poems on my bookshelf, The Book Of A Thousand Poems – A Family Treasure.
The Oak is called the King of Trees,
The Aspen quivers in the breeze,
The Poplar grows up straight and tall,
The Pear tree spreads along the walls,
The Sycamore gives pleasant shade,
The Willow droops in watery glade,
The Fir tree useful timber gives,
The Beech amid the forest lives.
By S. Coleridge