Thursday, July 21, 2011


I sometimes joke that the Town-Namers around here had only a few words to choose from--Oak, Park, Forest, River, and Lawn--so they did the best they could, rearranging them in as many combinations as they could think of. Ergo, Forest Park, Park Forest, River Forest, Oak Lawn, and Oak Park, where I live. These names suggest places with bounteous trees, which in this case, fortunately, is true. Unlike Crate & Barrel, which has neither crates nor barrels, or Pottery Barn, which is definitely not a barn and has only a minor focus on pottery.
     I am used to living in places with lots of trees, and I enjoy their many pleasures--watching them magically bud out in the spring, withdrawing into the cool of their shade in the summer, and marveling at their autumn color show. Even in the winter, their towering skeletons add definition to the landscape.
     Here in Oak Park, we do have a good number of large, impressive oaks. We used to have elms, but those are almost all gone now because of Dutch Elm disease. Currently, our local arborists are removing all the ash trees because of the Emerald Ash Borer invasion. Fortunately, the arborists are replacing these tress with other varieties, and we will all hope for the best.We have lots of other kinds of trees, too--honey locusts, maples. The Maples make the most magnificent show in the fall.

     I once had a friend visit from Belize, and she had never seen a maple before. She came running in the house to ask, "What is that?" The maple was as exotic to her as a frangipani or a baobab would be to me. Here's a baobab.

      Another time, I had a visitor from Arizona, and she was spooked by all the trees and canopy they created. She said she was used to being able to see exactly where she was all the time and what was around her, and all the trees made her feel claustrophobic and vulnerable. Another visitor from Arizona (who had grown up on the East Coast) delighted in being able to sit under a tree and rest her back on its trunk--something you definitely can't do with a saguaro (ouch).

     One of my favorite kind of tree is the Live Oak--the kind they have in New Orleans--which to me seem like some kind of plant animal hybrid, especially when they have all that moss hanging from them.
When I lived in Ann Arbor (originally, I think, named Ann's Arbor, because there was a person named Ann and there were lots of trees), I used to go to West Park. The park had a band shell, where sometimes they had rock concerts or poetry reading. This was around the time that my friends and I were all reading the Tolkein books, and there were a line of willow trees in West Park that I was convinced were the Ent Wives. Back then, and even a long time after, I found Willows to be the most romantic of trees.
When we bought our house in Oak Park, it had a large willow in the yard, and this was a very persuasive selling factor for me. The tree was, however, way too large for the yard, and its branches kept falling off and crashing through our garage roof or threatening to pull down all the power lines, or destroy our entire house, so we had it cut down. Instead, we put in a few maples, an oak, a honey locust, and some flowering crabs, so for a not-very-large property, we're pretty tree-rich.
     I've been thinking about trees because, as you all likely know, it's very, very hot outside, and while I was walking today, I was thinking that even though they're not moaning and groaning about it (at least not in a way we can hear), the heat is likely as stressful for trees as it is for the rest of us creatures.

8 comments: said...

What a beautiful Post!!

Oak Park to me is in MI. Trees were saplings when we bought our little Ed Rose house there in 1974. When we returned in 1989, Eastwood St. was beautifully arched by the saplings I remember.

Thank you so much for a wonderful memory!

Susan Messer said...

Yes, there's a Highland Park around here too, just like in MI. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know.

What's an Ed Rose house?

Jim Poznak said...

Your ode to trees is lovely. Perhaps you were an Ent wife in a prior life. said...

Ed Rose was a mostly unknown architect/builder who built about 40 houses in E. Oak Park - the "other" side. Just E of Nine Mile and Coolidge. They are now referred to as mid-century homes, but in that area, have not kept their value like the same homes in Phoenix, LA and even Las Vegas. Ours was an 1100 sq foot (plus equal basement space where we built a photo dark room and played table tennis) love. Three bedrooms, Dining L, one bath, kid-size fenced yard and carport. Unique use of the space -studio ceilings held large closed storage space a huge grocery cabinet, and all the conveniences, and it was family affordable -won a national award for Mr. Rose, but not fortune or fame.

We enjoyed the bonus of living across the street from the Oak Park Chief of Police. No snow on our street. He was always there to talk or a enjoy a thirst quencher. Maybe Eastwood got the best trees too. That was MY Ed Rose house.

Thanks for asking!

Susan Messer said...

Thanks, dear. I wouldn't have minded being an Ent wife. They did seem to have a good spot there in West Park.

Susan Messer said...

Re: Ed Rose. Thanks for the explanation. In Mich, I knew someone named Ed Rose, but he was a hippie rather than an architect (VW van and all), and I don't think he would have been the right age to have built those houses. But when I saw that name Ed Rose, the person I knew did come into my mind.

Margaret P. said...

Your post led me to reflect on my own trees and to wonder what, if anything, the number of trees we are stewards for signifies.

When I was in my early 30s, I lived in a third floor condo and from my bedroom window, which looked out the back through a narrow gangway between the six-flats, I could see the only tree on the property--an oak that had grown up rapidly in the gangway, reaching toward the sun. Boy I loved that tree, and I knew that someday it would have to go -- luckily I went before it did.

Now I have a suburban home with about 10 enormous old chestnut oaks, a maple, three cherry trees, and a dozen or more "understory" trees. I love them but they also scare me (and my neighbors) to death! Any one of them could crush my house or theirs in a heartbeat. Boy was I naive when I bought the house! What to do, what to do?

Susan Messer said...

I know what you meant about the trees having that scary factor. Especially during some of the vicious storms we've had this summer, lots of big trees and big branches have fallen, and you (or your house or car or neighbor's house) wouldn't want to have been in the way when they did. I just can't stand the way that when we are adults and property owners, even a tree can become a conundrum. But I do think I like that word conundrum.