Poet Joyce Kilmer wrote: I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree.
I like trees too. I enjoy looking at them as I walk. I appreciate their grandeur, their majesty, the refreshing shade they provide on a hot summer day, the millions of leaves they shed in the fall that have to be raked. (Just kidding about liking that last one.) I especially like the trees on our property near Wamego. Our family has lived in our house ever since it was built in the 1980s, so we planted — or had someone else plant — all the trees in our yard.
Our grandest tree is a handsome pin oak that soars higher than our house. When our kids were little, I used to decorate the then-tiny tree for Easter by hanging colorful plastic eggs on it. The tree was so short I could easily stand on the ground and hang an egg on the very top. Now the tree is at least 30 feet high.
For the first time this past summer, I noticed that the pin oak was providing really significant shade for our house.
Our pin oak has a perfect tree shape, with hefty lower branches that spread out across a good portion of the yard and upper branches that steadily decrease in size and girth as they reach a peak.
Every Fourth of July, our now-grown kids (and now our grandson too) have fun lighting sparklers and tossing them as high as they can into the tall pin oak. By bending the metal handles of the sparklers, the kids can make them cling to the tree’s lofty branches as they burn. When several glowing sparklers are thrown into the tree at once, it reminds us of a Christmas tree. It’s Christmas in July!
We also have a nice-looking cottonwood, the Kansas state tree. I love to listen to the restful rustling of shiny cottonwood leaves. Our tree has grown from a seedling and, like our pin oak, has become a pleasing part of our yard.
Nearly 30 years ago, we planted five apple trees. Somehow, the tags that identified the trees got lost, but the county agent said the apples look like galas.
A wind storm toppled one of the fruit trees, but its roots have grown into a sort of apple “bush” that last year produced an apple or two.
My wife Joyce makes good chunky applesauce and pies from the fruit our trees produce.
Some years, we get so many apples from our five trees we can hardly find enough places to give them away after Joyce uses what she can. We take them to our neighbors, church, our jobs and food pantries and still have apples to spare.
Other years, we get almost no apples, despite promising blossoms in the spring. This was one of those years. Fortunately, we have plenty of homemade applesauce in the freezer.
We also planted a couple of cherry trees a number of years ago. A lightning bolt split one of them in two, but the other tree reliably produces all the cherries we need every year.
I grumble when Joyce asks me to get out the ladder and help her pick cherries, but I love the luscious desserts Joyce makes from the fruit. Joyce pits all of our cherries by hand, which adds to my appreciation of the treats she makes.
I admire the pine tree in our yard for its never-say-die spirit. We planted the sapling, brought home from school by our daughter when she was a youngster, and “babied” it along in its early years.
A few years ago, the lush, green tree, like so many evergreens in our area, began turning brown and dropping lots of needles. Yet each year, the very top of the tree remained green, showing us it was still alive.
This past summer, joyously, the entire tree once again burst forth in fine, green needles and gave us hope that the worst was over for the intrepid tree.
A tree “looks at God all day,” Kilmer wrote, “And lifts her leafy arms to pray.”
I like to think a lot of prayers are lifted up from our yard every day.