Whirlybirds and Memories
Class of 2017
(4/2017) The sidewalk was perfectly covered with a fresh coat of whirlybirds that fell from the maple trees that perfectly lined the sidewalk leading to the entrance of the pre-school. The droppings were untouched, fresh from the afternoon lull. We walked into the building, we did, but we stopped every few inches to pick up a new treasure. Peeling them
open at their base, we stuck them to the bridge of our noses and left them there until they fell off a few steps later, and we had to grab a new one. This was me; however, if you were my brother, you began sticking them to the tips of your ears, dangling them as earrings, pushing them aggressively onto your cheeks, and lining your little sister’s face with them also.
This is my earliest memory of trees, perhaps one of my earliest memories at all.
Fast forward six years, my next one comes from fifth grade envirothon.
There was a team of about 12 of us and we spent all year preparing for this one event: the County Envirothon Competition. We came together, late April, with all the other school districts and sat at wooden tables in the middle of Gifford Pinchot State Park identifying birds, fish, and yes, trees. I was a tree specialist, primarily because I am allergic
to fish so quite frankly, they grossed me out and I couldn’t tell a finch from a blue jay, but that is what I did. I sat looking at leaf after leaf, rattling off what tree they each belonged to. Unfortunately, identifying tree leaves is not like riding a bike; even if I tried, I would probably fail that fifth grade test right now.
In my next tree-specific memory, I am hiding behind one, holding back tears.
You see, at one point in my life I thought I should do what all of my neighbors and siblings were doing and asked for an AirSoft gun and equipment for Christmas. This was not, please note my intended emphasis here, not, a good idea at all. We all got AirSoft guns, face masks, barriers, targets, and so much equipment. It was set to be our next
neighborhood fad, and it was. Attached to my backyard is a small, but forested, section of land. After only a few days of practicing, all 14 of my neighbors and myself – yes, I let this happen – decided we should split up into teams and play in the trees. Again, terrifying. I found myself hiding behind trees the entire time, wishing I was coordinated enough to climb one. The
trees made this game terrifying as they made it nearly impossible to see anybody or keep track of anybody, but they simultaneously were a cover and a refuge. This then, became both my least favorite and my favorite part of this "game."
So up to this point, trees have provided me with laughs and dancing in circles with whirlybirds stuck to my face, a place to succeed in the world of memorization and identification, and a place to hide. It doesn’t end there.
My most recent, and perhaps most significant memory of trees turned my simple recollection of tree-surrounded moments into a genuine appreciation. Up to this point, I’ve planted trees with the Environmental Club, dug holes in my backyard for my dad to stick trees into, and even run into a few trees accidentally, both with my car and on a run; however,
I had never spent three hours staring at a tree.
This sounds silly, I know, but hear me out. This past summer at Ft. Knox, we spent multiple days and weeks doing field training. This means sleeping, living, eating, and training in the woods. Of course, on the nights that it rained I gained a new appreciation for low hanging branches and the trees of more impressive size, which was to be expected. One
time, though, I actually stared at a tree for three hours, I wasn’t kidding. I was lying on my stomach in a Patrol Base, admittedly I should have been keeping security instead of staring at said tree, but if you have ever been tasked with this you will understand why that just wasn’t feasible on the 12th day in the field. So, naturally, I began to watch this one tiny green
caterpillar climb up the base of the tree I was lying beside. I watched as it shimmied up a few centimeters, then I decided I should definitely interact with this new little friend. So, naturally once more, I picked up a stick and began stopping it in its tracks every few minutes. Eventually I decided this was torture, and I let him go. In those moments, though, I found
something to keep me occupied for hours. Yes, I realize I sound like a very, very young child, but in moments of intense boredom I think our minds do revert to a sort of childlike way of finding entertainment.
And so, I watched for hours as different bugs and creatures climbed up, down, and around this tree. This tree was home to thousands of small creatures, providing for the temporary needs of each of them. Also, provided the home of my entertainment for a few crucial hours.
Conclusion: trees are important. They drop whirlybirds that cause pursuant preschoolers and young children more joy than an ice cream cone. They start dances, they are home to readers who require their shade and a back-rest, and the best ones mark a permanency of nature from century to century. They provide shelter in both real and fake wars, they
stand tall as children learn to climb them, and they serve as a home to countless creatures. So, aside from the obvious, and debatably most important, way that they provide us with oxygen, trees do more. They are more, and they should be protected as such. Happy Arbor Day!
Read other articles by Leeanne Leary