For Cynthia

Look up anywhere in this neighborhood, and you’ll see a varied canopy. Green waves in every shade from chalky jade to emerald city to key lime. Forms stitch a crazy quilt –spiked  spires, rounded domes, and broadleafed pyramids — all bordered, with a changing sky.

Fruits appear in all sizes, too: brown papery cones dangle from the top-most branches of blue spruce (for who would plant a regular old spruce in Colorado), lapis berries snuggle in juniper fronds, crimson and gold orbs ready to shower from the crabs.

Here, volunteering on the fenceline between my house and Cynthia’s, an  American plum. Its flowers took no notice of May freezes, and now it’s hung all about with olive-shaped fruits, the only uniform feature of its wild form. The fruits, more pit than flesh, have turned a tempting orange-yellow, their next to last stage of ripening. When they show a bit of ruby, we’ll find out who sees first, the squirrels or me.

These are the burnishing weeks, leaves achieving their most mature verdancy before shutting down chlorophyl production and letting their autumn colors show. A few twigs on the honey locust guarding the medians of the flat corner lot, already flash a brilliant amber to signal the coming riot of hues.

Chatting next to the plum, Cynthia and I ignited an anticipation for the glory to come — especially on the corner where Bea used to live. There, an autumn purple ash arches in all directions. An unassuming green on a typical deciduous tree form, by month’s end it will be a car-stopping wonder, spangled in vermillion, rust, and burgundy.

Then, Cynthia extended an invitation I couldn’t refuse: Would I take a group of friends on a walk through the neighborhood, naming trees, and join them afterwards for a celebration of our woody neighbors? Heck, yeah.

This past Sunday, me walking backwards down the alley to the north of our houses and up the walk to the south, we took our tour. From her backyard we could see already seven different species. Down the alley, peach, apricot, and plum growing without human attention, astonishing everyone. It’s almost always enchanting to take an intentional look at what is all around.

I composed a list of things I so deeply appreciate about trees, and offered it during our celebration as a call and response. Following each appreciation, there was a collective intake of breath, and we exhaled thanks. You can, too, if you like.

For pausing us in our labors, lifting our eyes to the sky…

For agreeing to grow where humans, birds, bears, squirrels, and wind plant you…

For playing with light and making shade…

For bearing fruits and seeds, feeding all the mobile creatures above and below…

For letting the fox dare to climb and giving the squirrel a chance to climb higher…

For your steadfast presence through night, storm, and winter…

For your innocent part in the darker lessons humanity must learn…

For your suffering that humanity might awaken…

For dropping your leaves, limbs, and trunks that the seen and unseen might feast them into humus…

For partnering with the stone people, brother wind, and sister rain to make soil…

For sending your roots far, mingling with each other, that we might feel community under our feet…

For all who perch, prowl, reproduce, forage, sleep, sing, and travel in your bark and branches…

For breathing out what we breathe in and breathing in what we breathe out…

For dancing, subtly and in wild abandon, while staying in place…

For giving every part of yourself that we might have fire, furniture, houses, boats, tools, toothpicks, spoons, sponges, paper, and clothes…

For throwing apples at the little girl and her friends, somewhere over the rainbow…

For turning sunlight into every shade of green, whispering to the calm in our souls…

For your many forms, all beautiful…

We give thanks.

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Ah, Robin

A little while back, a friend and I reconnected for the first time since college. In our exchanges of calls and notes, I shared this:

“The early bird catches the worm, they say. And when I was growing up, it was always said to make us believe that in order to be ambitious and successful, one must be an early riser. Later in life, I realized it was also a folksy way to identify the robin who is compelled by his nature to sing up the sun and eat worms (the latter of which may be observed at whatever time of day he’s hungry). This makes the robin no more ambitious than the eagle I once watched roosting in a dark fir, preening and stretching her wings as the sun touched them. I am more like the eagle in this regard. While I love listening to the robin as I slowly wake up and consider my dreams, he and I have different jobs to do and different diets.”

Today was my most favorite of Spring days. I woke to robin song and a blanching sky. Because the sun rises earlier and earlier, I relished song and sky, the groggy satisfaction of a full night’s sleep, and plans for the day before swinging my feet out of bed. Yes, thank you, and still only 6:30.

Overnight rain blessed the garden. Enough to darken the mulch and wash the sky into a kept promise of sweetness. I tucked plants, thinned from a client’s garden, into the mammoth parking median before leaving in plenty of time for work. Clouds fleeced the summit of our mountain. The wind stayed calm to gently breezing. I was comfy in an old cotton sweater from Willie walk to Willie walk. Sweaters like this and days like this are like the best of friends.

If there is a name for this character of Spring, I’d call it Forsythia. She is in cheerful, abundant array. All around her, just opened leaves and swelling flower buds haze most other branches, and the scale has tipped toward Summer. This is the day we understand that summer will win the wrestling match.

Taking a different route to my usual Thursday garden, I passed a redbud in full bloom. What is that color? The center of chocolate covered cherries, raspberry sherbet, cassis meringue. I can’t quite put my tongue on it. Even so, I pulled over and alerted two friends by phone. Something so delicious is even better shared.

In our own back yard, ruddy and jagged leaves point toward earth along the arching branches of the room-sized cotoneaster. Willie barked a tall coyote down the sidewalk at dawn, then stayed outside to make sure he didn’t return. Yes, thank you, a Forsythia day, which robin sang into being.

Hark! The Herald House Finch Sings

The question on everyone’s lips: Will it be an early spring? We ask it perennially, and we can never really know. Winter in the rain shadow of Pikes Peak has been windy, cold, and brutally dry. We are more than ready for a change, but I hear something other than grumpy exhaustion in the voices of neighbors and friends. Recently there’s spark and gleam and restlessness. Willie the terrier, fifteen next month, sunbathes under the apple tree and, when he comes in, madly sheds. I watch a tall, hefty, middle-aged man in biking shorts wheel by and silently cheer, “You go, boy!”

At the feeders, male house finches flash their scarlet heads. Their brilliant, long winded songs fly everywhere at once.

One morning last week, surfacing from not quite enough sleep, there was a repeated melody. Oh so dopey, I lulled on my side and listened. A robin? Yes. A robin! In full-throated reverie. Robin! How easy it was to reel out of bed.

Within a day, the air on our block was full of robin notes. Strolling up the street with Willie I looked for them. There! Above the back yard where two golden retrievers live, a small flock announced itself from the wide embrace of a shaggy barked maple. Scouts perhaps? I haven’t heard them since.

Saturday evening, however, I heard rain, against the windows and on the roof, a shower. Already jubilant and breathing deeply the fragrant moisture, my body thrilled to a long, gentle roll of thunder, the first to rumble down the mountains. It’s a holy moment on which all time seems to turn.

Will it be an early spring? Anyone’s guess. There might be snow days as late as May. Yet, in the heart a quickening that storms can only sweeten, and in the pace of the old pooch, a liveliness as we step into the certainty of lengthening days.