In honor of Earth Day, I thought it might be a good time to talk about my somewhat lopsided relationship with trees — that is, I love them and they don’t care for me all that much. Sure, they tolerate my taking photos of them in the throes of their autumnal splendor, winter starkness, spring bloom, and summer abundance (who wouldn’t want to be adored?). But when it comes to showing me some love, all bets are off.
Take that beautiful, blossoming tree that beckoned to me one summer day, not long after we had moved to LA. The streets were lined with lots of these trees, in shades of pink, red, and purple. “Come on over,” one of the pink ones called. “Smell how beautiful my fragrance is.” And just like that, the tree had me.
No sooner had I leaned in and breathed deeply than I knew I had been had. I could literally feel the pollen surging up my nose and into my sinuses, where it remained for the rest of the summer. I’m talking allergy hell, duped by that temptingly evil tree. I’m smart enough now not to fall for that one again — “You know what happens to nosy dames? They get stuffed noses”– but I’d swear those trees laugh at me whenever I pass by.
Then there’s that root-full, ruthless tree that jumped up and tripped me. There I was on my lunch break at a new job several years ago, walking through the neighborhood to get some fresh air and to check out the best places to get a sandwich. So absorbed was I in looking around, that I didn’t see the giant tree root that rose up out of the sidewalk and sent me sprawling.One moment there I was, feeling fine and sauntering down the street. The next I was facedown, flat on the sidewalk, millimeters from hitting my head.
The damages? Pants torn beyond repair, knees and palms well-scraped, and ego bruised. Very. I pulled myself up and sat on the curb for a couple of minutes to catch my breath. “Great,” I muttered, looking over at the tree. “You know I have a new-client meeting right after lunch and you just couldn’t resist the urge to trip me, could you?” The tree, as is usual in these cases, wasn’t talking. But its branches leaned over in the breeze and rustled those of the tree next to it, sort of like a “good one, right?” poke in the ribs.
The latest incident happened just last week. While walking straight across a parking lot to my car, I walked straight into a tree. Or the branch of a tree to be exact. A very thick branch. That smacked me right in the forehead. I think I actually saw stars for a second, trying to figure out what had happened. The aforementioned branch had been just above my line of sight (obviously) and, to add insult to injury, my head had also broken off a thin branch, which I was now wearing in my hair. Lovely. “What?” the tree asked innocently.
I’ve tried to figure out where all this animosity is coming from. I’ve always been on the side of trees and their feelings. (When they had to cut back tree branches on some LA streets so that a truck, carrying the space shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center, could pass by, I was as upset as anyone. And I’ve always felt that the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree would rather live out its life in the peaceful countryside than be cut down, dragged to the heart of the world’s busiest city, and be forced to live out its existence in the midst of all that traffic — and all those tourists.)
Maybe it’s just nature’s way of laughing at a city girl. Maybe it’s just a little bit of arboreal fun, if you will. Or maybe it’s just my irrepressible, overactive writer’s imagination that needs to find a creative story in every little incident.
Let’s leaf it at that.
ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman