Another Day in the Country
Looking at — and seeing — that bloomin’ tree
© Another Day in the Country
Even before a new house was completed for our mother in Ramona, we began to plant trees in the yard.
She’d been living in Oregon, and her yard there was covered with magnificent trees. In the last years of her life, back in Kansas, she wanted trees — big trees, exotic trees, blooming trees for all of us to enjoy.
We took her to a store and perused their selection of trees.
“I want one of those and that one and this,” she said pointing to a red bud, a Bradford pear, and a linden tree. “Oh, and a magnolia would be nice.”
Truck loaded to the gills, we headed back to Ramona. We had a river birch, a bald cyprus, a Japanese maple, a crabapple, some kind of strange spruce, and a lovely tree called liquid amber, as I recall.
Most of those trees thrived. The maple died almost immediately upon discovering it was in Kansas. The flowering crab died mysteriously the spring. And the birch bit the dust last year.
You can expect some loss when planting trees, but we’ve been very fortunate because Mom’s trees are happy campers for the most part.
We had company recently and we all were sitting on the side porch in the early morning breeze, chatting, when suddenly Jess looked up at the linden tree and said, “What? That tree is blooming!”
“Where?” I said, squinting against the sun, “What does it look like?”
I couldn’t see anything that looked like a blossom.
“Like a water lily,” my sister said.
A little water lily bloom on a tree?
“What kind of tree is this?” she asked. “Have you ever seen it bloom before?”
I hadn’t. She hadn’t. We were completely in the dark. We’d seen the redbud bloom and the Bradford pear bloom, and the magnolia was covered with blossoms at the moment. Mom’s favorite tree, called a princess tree, with a strange hollow trunk, finally had bloomed its head off last year.
But whoever heard of a linden tree blooming? Obviously, they do.
“What if that tree has been blooming all along,” my sister wondered, “and we just haven’t noticed?”
That was a possibility. We don’t sit on the side porch as often as we do out front. But surely one would notice tiny, intricate, yellow blooms on a big old tree.
“Maybe it had to reach a certain age,” I countered, “like getting to be 12 years old — tree puberty?”
“Maybe you haven’t noticed because the tree is so tall that the porch roof keeps you from really seeing the branches from here,’” someone else added.
“Is it possible we weren’t paying attention?” we asked each other.
Had the Linden tree been blooming all along, every spring since we planted it, and we just hadn’t taken the time to notice?
“I’ve never, ever grown a linden tree before; they aren’t the usual trees grown around here,” I said, giving myself an excuse for my ignorance. “Who knew?”
So, I Googled it. I discovered that linden trees bloom every year and that a healing tea can be made from the flowers.
Our linden is like so many kids growing up around here. Their parents are so busy working, looking at their cell phones, surviving, that they don’t really pay close attention to their children.
It always pains me to see a child strapped in a stroller and the mother ignoring it completely as she plays on her cell phone.
When we invite families to come to the yearly art show that we have at the Centre schools in May, where all the ways in which third, fourth, and fifth graders have bloomed is on display, I tell parents: “Put away your cell phones. Pay attention! Ask your young artists questions! Look! And look again!”
There is a difference, you know, between looking and actually seeing. A look can be fleeting — like a glance. To really see, you have to slow down, pay attention to detail, notice small changes, and discover something unexpected.
It takes time. I look at that linden tree every day, mow around it every week, admire its lovely dappled shade — but I hadn’t really seen it, until now, on another day in the country.