For as long as I can remember, my life has been surrounded by trees. The earliest memories of my youth were of playing in a freshly irrigated Walnut Orchard, goose-bumped from the frigid well water, and covered in mud as thick as peanut butter. The complex that I live in now is filled with trees that house my Arch Nemeses; Birdfrog. The home that was mine for 23 years sat on the edge of a 40 acre parcel that rotated out row crops, but the surrounding plots belonging to the neighbors were filled with Walnut and Cherry Trees. The Farm town that I grew up in was filled with Orchards. As I grew older, the trees evolved from jungle gyms and play structures to obstacles and allies. I crashed into one of those Walnut Trees in a Chevy truck, and the Cherry Trees became a great hiding spot for a beer kegs that weren’t supposed to be in orchards full of high schoolers and 4×4 trucks.
Our humble little lath and plaster home took up approximately 1,000 square feet, with a yard that most people today could only dream of. The wee little farmhouse was surrounded by a moat of Ryegrass and Dichondra and a wood slat fence enclosing dozens of shrubs, a partially sunken in Doughboy Pool, a Rabbit Cage, a Dog Kennel that was converted into a Pig Pen (more on that later) a hand crafted Tree House with a slide, a “Feed Me Seymour” sized Rosemary Bush, and the two most majestic, breathtaking Mulberry Trees that you ever saw.
Most of you know a Mulberry Tree as the kind that people cut the stems off right at the base of the tree so that the top of the tree is nothing but branchless knobs. If you let the branches grow and flower, the Mulberry Tree produces gigantic shiny green leaves the size of a shoe, or something else really big. It also produces these little caterpillar looking things that take over the lawn, the sidewalk, the dog’s water dish, and anything else in the way. Think of a snow capped cottage out in the woods, replace the word “snow” with “little caterpillar looking things” and you have yourself an idea of the picture I am trying to paint.
To give you a better visual of how big these trees were, picture a little plastic red Monopoly House, then picture a stalk of Broccoli hovering over it. That’s how big these damn trees were.
As I grew up, I didn’t pay much attention to those two trees; just when I had to sweep or hose down the sidewalks in the fall (little caterpillar things), or when Papa Joe conducted his annual pruning. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, living in town where my neighbors actually shared a fence with me that I drove home one afternoon that I realized how high the trees towered over the house, and even towered over the 80 year old Walnuts next door. They were something to be proud of. A few years ago, my mom had them removed, due to the fact that a highly trained arborist (jerkface) told her that the root base was ruining the foundation of the house. I was devastated when I heard the news, and even more saddened when I drove home last summer and saw our wee little farmhouse sitting in the great wide open, with no shade to protect it. Truth be told, I am still mad at my mom for this one, and she knows it.
Tonight, I pulled into the parking lot in my Apartment Complex, and where I normally park was full. As I drove around the corner, I found the only open spot which happened to be beneath a Mulberry Tree that I had never noticed before. This tree is a baby, nowhere near as big as the ones that were at the Ranch, but I felt a little bit of joy as I pulled into the parking stall and let the giant shiny leaves brush up against the hood of my car. I almost can’t wait until Fall to see the caterpillar thingies.
I did some googling to see if Mulberry Trees have any major symbolism, but all I could find was an excerpt from theroselabrynth.com; The Mulberry Tree is a symbol of wisdom, and associated with the goddesses Minerva/Athena. The mulberry puts out no growth whatsoever until all danger of frosts are past, then it works so swiftly that all the buds may appear almost overnight: thus, the tree is both prudent and patient.
I find comfort in that.
I miss my mom, I miss my home, and I miss my trees. I long for the day that I win the Powerball, buy a parcel of land, and plant myself one hundred trees on my sprawling estate. In the meantime, I will take time to stop and gaze at all the amazing trees around me. When my time comes, please bury my ashes beneath a baby Mulberry Tree so that I can be prudent, patient, and most importantly, fifty feet tall.