|By Kew Gardens, from Flickr|
Before my parents divorced when I was eight, we all lived together in a huge, white Victorian house on three and half acres in Pennsylvania. My brother and I ran wild in the hilly yard, climbing every tree we could and breaking out in poison ivy on what seemed like a daily basis. The furry ropes of poison ivy that ran up and down many of the older trees did not do much to deter us from setting our feet on the bark and swinging ourselves up into the boughs. I cannot recount the majority of the tree species that were in my childhood yard, but I can tell you about three: the ginkgo, the Japanese maple, and the apple trees.
The ginkgo largely went unnoticed by me until autumn.We had a huge ginkgo tree that was unclimbable, due to its lack of low branches, that shaded part of the driveway close to the house. The color and the shape of its leaves made them stand out from all the other leaves that floated to the ground. They were not brightly colored or shiny like the other leaves. They were a matte pastel orange. You'd think that their comparative dullness would make them less noticeable, but the creamy orange color was always a nice change from the piles of showy leaves. I always felt compelled to pick up a leaf or two and finger the paper like texture, feeling the tiny raised veins, all running in the same direction. Ginkgoes are pretty robust and capable of thriving in areas of low air quality. Perhaps their quiet endurance is what attracts me to them so much.
|By autan, from Flickr|
Shortly before my parents separated, my mom began working part time, which left my brother and me alone after school for a few hours. One autumn afternoon, I ran out to the front yard with my brother after throwing our backpacks down inside and headed for the Japanese maple. I was dolled up in a dress and had on dress shoes. My brother stopped me and asked me if I should change first before climbing the tree. I looked down at my outfit, knowing that he was right, but shrugged my shoulders and said that I'd be fine. My recklessness made me bold and I swung myself up into the tree like an expert, gripping the well known branches and placing my feet into the joints that were formed where two branches met. The bottom of my shoes were slick and didn't have much traction. High up in the boughs, my footing slipped and as gravity pulled me down, I blacked out. I woke up, face up on the grass, with my brother, white as a sheet, kneeling over me. I have no idea how long I was out for, but as far as I can remember, I was largely bruise free. I stood up, all in one piece, and my brother and I unconsciously took the sibling silence oath and never spoke of the incident to ourselves or to our parents. The sheer terror of the accident kept us mum. Thinking about the amount of luck involved in me being able to walk away from that incident makes my brain hurt. I could have fallen into the street and gotten hit by a car, I could have broken my neck and been paralyzed, I could have, I could have...
|By canong2fan, from Flickr|
In the beginning of October, my best friend, Lynn, and I went apple picking in Charlottesville. The plan was to pick enough to make an apple pie and some applesauce. After partaking in apple cider and apple cider doughnuts, we entered the orchard and wandered down a pathway between two rows of apple trees. My nose perked up and picked up the familiar scents of the orchard. Lynn noticed the perplexed look on my face and she knew exactly what I was trying to place. "It smells just like at my old house. All the rotting apples in the fall smelled exactly how it smells here." She recognized the smell as well, having traipsed across my yard with me on a number of occasions. I had forgotten that pervasive sweet, earthy smell over the years, but in a matter of seconds, I had returned to my childhood, skipping and jumping over brown, mushy, wrinkly apples, on my way to the next tree.