Monday, July 21, 2008

Seeing Home with Open Eyes

Quick break from the Piney-looking trees series…

So since last Wednesday I’ve been back in the Boston area, for a couple days of work, then time with my family (I grew up I a suburb of Boston.) Tomorrow we (me, wife, kids) are headed up to a cabin on a lake in Maine for a few days. I’ll be offline the whole time, so it may be as long as a week before I post again.

Tangent: I've bragged about my father before. Here's another thing to brag about: he built this cabin. Never built a house before, bought a couple of acres of land on a small lake in Maine. In the summer of 1972 went up and camped on the land for 2 weeks, and together with a friend (schoolteacher who had summers off, died more than a decade ago), and an 8-year old son (me) built a house that stands beautifully today.

Down here in MA, it’s been a pleasant trip. I’ve rented a road bike to try and stay in tune for the week and a half I’m away, which has meant daily rides through the towns that lie between routes 128 and 495, through little towns that look like this (pic left.) But the best part (after the family part of course) has been the part I never noticed before: the trees.

I wrote last month how going to a completely different floral environment, like California, is a bit like going to an alien planet. The amazing thing about this week is once again, I’m in a totally alien environment. My parent’s condo is in a heavily wooded development, and already I’ve found several wonderful “new” trees, including Eastern White Pine (Pinus Strobus), Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), White Oak (Quercus Alba), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)(leaf pic right), American Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), Gray Birch (Betula populifolia), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Red Maple (Acer rubrum) (pic left) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum). That’s a lot of new species in 72 hours. But the amazing thing is- none of these species should be new to me- I grew up here! These are the same trees I walked by and sat under and climbed for pretty much the first quarter-century of my life, and yet I never learned to identify, or even really notice, any of them. It’s like this year my eyes have opened up, and now I’m seeing everything old as if it were new.

I couldn’t stand this place growing up. The winters were bitter, the summers hot and muggy, the towns and cities crowded, the roads congested, the people provincial (or at least seemed so at the time to a snotty 20-something.) For years I dreamed of moving out West, of open spaces. I’ve been gone now for close to 20 years, and I have no regrets. But if I’d been in tune with the wild green jungle all around me, maybe I wouldn’t have hated this place quite so much.

Off to Maine in the morning. Can’t wait to see what’s growing up there.

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