Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just Trees and a Treehugger

These two towering eucalyptus trees are those that I spoke of in my post about the monumental dust storm that passed through the Phoenix valley a couple weeks ago. Every year during the summer, at least once, I sit awake at night and listen to the wind lashing them and wonder if they will give up the ghost and end up on the house.

But they are beautiful. And exotic. They call to mind visions of Australia, and that land, I think, is not so unlike this area in terms of scorching heat and desert vistas. Oh, some people say no; eucalyptus trees are a pain, not beautiful at all, because they make a great mess out of one's yard; the bark and twigs shred so easily in the wind.

"So, are you going to cut down those trees?" our next door neighbor asked the first time we met her. The demand came after several minutes friendly conversation when I suppose she felt she'd buttered us up.

Never mind that it would cost us hundreds of dollars to do so, or that our air conditioning bills would soar without the massive shade of those giant eucalyptus; they made a mess of her carefully manicured lawn, and she wanted them gone. So I've spent plenty of time in our years at this house walking about the front of our home collecting strips of red-brown bark from the gravel in the morning or evening after any good wind. Heck, I've often collected the trees' debris from my neighbor's yard, but I don't hold the exercise against the towering beauties. I even feel a certain pride that we have the tallest trees on our street.

Lately, I've killed two birds with one stone - taking my kids out before 7am many mornings to ride their bikes, pulling my toddler in the Radio Flyer wagon, so he can have some wheels, too. He clutches his Elmo doll and smiles as I off-road the wagon across the gravel of our semi-xeriscaped yard, scooping up nature's castoffs as we go.  

Come December I'll be stepping out with a pair of pliers, picking out supple new branches to clip off in order to roll up a Christmas wreath or two. I like the feel of the satiny leaves between my fingers, the gorgeous rosy tinge at the tips of the new growth like an exotic flower. As I roll the branches in my hands, mourning every splinter when I must begin anew, I enjoy remembering those days in Tennessee when my parents rolled grapevine wreaths for a living. Matthew won't let me bring the wreaths inside, though - won't let me fill vases with freshly hewn eucalyptus branches, because the smell, to him, is overpowering. I think it's lovely, but no matter, I can at least hang my creation outside on the front door, a small tribute to the unique qualities of the eucalyptus. 

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