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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