Nancy Wiersma: Nature’s patchwork quilt, the sycamorePublished 11:41pm Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Looking out the kitchen window of my grandparents’ home stood a mighty sycamore.
As a child, I would stand at its base with my young arms spreading wide trying to encircle it. Marveling at its scale, beauty and strength.
Even as a child I appreciated a handsome tree.
I would trace my fingers over its multi-colored “quilted” patches.
Patches of grass-green, cream, mahogany and a darker Christmas green.
At times great sheets would peel away.
If either of the grandparents caught me peeling the bark, all they had to do was give The Look and I knew they meant business.
How many times had it witnessed my tears, temper and admiration?
Down through the years this handsome tree stood in witness over my family’s ups and downs.
If the weather turned foul, how my grandma Evie would agonize.
Worrying that one day said storm would snap a few of its great branchy limbs, toppling it and them down onto their home. But like the Rock of Gibraltar, it stood fast. How its mightiness could give, bend and sway with the wind.
As a child, I was always fascinated by the “hide” of a handsome tree.
And if the bark peeled, exfoliated and flaked off in sheets, so much the better, how interesting that all was.
My grandfather explained that the bark of a tree was much like our own skin, keeping things in and protected and keeping things out.
I often sat wondering just how any great tree could move when a storm or any wind in general would blow.
Now how could something as solid as bark flex, bend and sway?
As a child I just couldn’t wrap my immature head around all that.
Even now I wonder. I remember asking Grandpa Dunk just how a woodpecker kept from bashing out its brains while drilling into the calloused bark of a tree?
And just what kind of “teeth” did an ant, or any insect for that matter, have that would enable it to “chew” into its concrete temperedness, making a hole?
After all, any child knew it would take a power tool of some sort to cut into its stony hardness.
Sometimes he would just stare into my eyes before he offered up his answer.
Grandparents, bark and trees, how greatly profound they all are.
So ’til next time dear gardening friends — and, by all means, plant more trees.
Beneath some patriarchal tree I lay upon the ground; His hoary arms uplifted me, And all the broad leaves over me, Clapped their little hands in glee, with continuous sound.
— Henry Wadsworth