Monday, August 19, 2013

The Study of Trees

I had one of my classic dim-witted moments yesterday.  Usually, these are commonplace in my conversations.  Duck Dynasty is a favorite in our home.  After discovering the show just one month ago, we have purchased and watched the entire first three seasons.  I find myself gleefully listening to Si Robertson's lack of articulation, which in turn makes me slightly concerned: you know it's bad when Si makes you feel more normal.  For example, my husband and I went out to eat for our anniversary Friday night. After many minutes floundering as I stuttered out my order to our waitress, Matt turned to me and simply stated, "You can't not be awkward."  It was a very romantic dinner ;).

However, my latest embarrassing moment had nothing to do with talking.  Sunday morning, I glanced out the window at the resplendent crest of trees lining our peninsula on the pond.  It's a slight addiction of mine: drinking coffee and watching the sun glitter across the crowns of the dark evergreens as it rises.  This time, however, I gasped. All my glorious trees were shrouded in the dreaded rusty-brown blight that is withering evergreens across the state.  I told Matt we simply MUST go to the store and buy bottles of horrible fungicide chemicals to spray all over the trees.  If we acted fast enough, we just might be able to save them.

Evergreens bordering our pond
After arming myself with two rather small spray bottles of chemical weapons, a mask, long rubber gloves, and layers of fungicide-repelling clothing, I dragged a ladder out to the peninsula and initiated battle. I managed to cover about half of the 20-30 ft tall tree line in just over a half hour.  Slowly, I noticed something.  Those brown splotches weren't dying needles, after all.  They were very clearly pine cones.

Which brings me to our nature study topic this fall: trees!  It seems I have nearly as much to learn as Aubrey does.  Nevertheless, I've always had a strong affinity towards trees.  Since my name means earth and sky, I suppose it's only fitting to be drawn to an object that stretches it's fingers into both.  I grew up in the woods, running, hiding, and riding horses beneath their windowed canopies. Their enduring bodies were an enigma: holding within such a mysterious combination of strength and frailty. That seemed to be a perplexity with which I could sympathize.    

I purchased a lovely book on how to teach the subject of nature study to children, Handbook of Nature Study.  This massive tome covers everything from farm animals to constellations, with charming descriptions, poetry, and lesson ideas for each subject.  I read the first portion on trees this morning and determined that I easily may have ended up as a botanist if I had read this as a child.  I love being able to choose books that are alive and fascinating to share with my daughters.

We have everything from chestnuts to cedars on our property, giving us a wealth of specimens to work with.  A fun idea I came across on a homeschooling forum was to pick two or three specific trees around the house.  The child then names their trees and follows their "story" through the seasons.  This would accompany the broader biological study of trees through field guides and the book mentioned above.  Only two more weeks until we get started!

I wonder if they like it--being trees?
I suppose they do.
It must feel so good to have the ground so flat,
And feel yourself stand straight up like that.
So stiff in the middle, and then branch at ease,
Big boughs that arch, small ones that bend and blow,
And all those fringy leaves that flutter so.
You'd think they'd break off at the lower end
When the wind fills them, and their great heads bend.
But when you think of all the roots they drop, 
As much at bottom as there is on top,
A double tree, widespread in earth and air,
Like a reflection in the water there.

- "Tree Feelings," Charlotte Perkins Stetson
(qtd in Handbook of Nature Study)

I helped a friend "harvest" pigs this weekend.  Just thought I'd throw that in there.

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