GNL number 108

a report of doings at meeting #108, Sunday, July 10, 2016

including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends

INVOCATION

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?

—–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Except during the 9 months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does.

—–George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

Fancy cutting down all those beautiful trees to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.

—–Winston Churchill, to his son, on visit to Canada, 1929


THEME

Marge opened this conversation on TREES, by noting not only her history as a walker and tree-lover, but the history of her street in Cobleskill, so beautifully lined with tall graceful elms many years ago when she and Don moved there. These of course contracted the Dutch elm disease and were taken down, but then replaced with different trees by the local Rotary. She brought a photo of the old elms that her son, then 11, had taken. She also spoke of a class she took on pruning that taught her much about trees, and changed how she looked at them.

Louise brought some show and tell too: two beautiful, large paintings by Iroquois artist, Roger Parrish, not only depicting trees, but made of tree-material. She spoke too of her strong conviction that we humans must learn to need, and cut less wood. Which also brought responses from others, like Cynthia, who burn wood for heat, but do so mindful of using only picked up dead wood. And Louise had brought today her charming visitors, sister Ginny and husband Phil, who took part too.

Cynthia spoke of trees she’s loved as well, not only the huge spruce in her backyard, but the great catalpa in the neighborhood, with its sweet blossoms and huge height and branches. She passed a photo of that, and then showed her lovely, 50+ year-old book, Trees of NE/Central US, by Donald Culross Peattie.with its beautiful drawings and descriptions. And she also showed us a packet of her cards with the lovely ink and watercolor tree-leaf drawings she’d done.

Nancy N reported on her Family Tree, describing her recent delight in finding relatives she didn’t know she had on her mom’s side, especially with not only the grandmother she never knew, but lots of cousins, and the prospect of contact, eg., via Facebook, and perhaps reunions. And since Nancy was our hostess today at her and Kevin’s beautiful country home in the hills above Richmondville, with plenty of the other kind of trees, we got to walk around and admire them, especially one wonderful big,old maple.

Ann recalled playing with a friend in her Connecticut childhood, and the big oak in the yard there, with which her mom had a love-hate relationship since it made such a leaf and acorn mess on her garden that she was always working to keep it clear. And Ann recalled her and Ell’s later history with trees, he getting trained and doing forestry, eventually in Sharon—and how they learned much about trees, eg.,to identify them even leaf-less in the winter by such things as the bark. She also brought a great tree identification book by H.R. Symonds. We told her she could teach a class on this.

Louise’s sister, Ginny, was recalling childhood trees too, especially times at home in the tree-house/fort in the big maple with her siblings. She and her husband are from Thousand Oaks, California, which she said is like its name; but also not too far from the amazing, mammoth redwoods, which she urged us all to come see. And then she remembered that old favorite Joyce Kilmer poem, I Think That I Shall Never See A Poem Lovely as a Tree, which she recited for us. (And Marge then sang a bit of the tune too.)

Ginny’s husband, Phil, first surprised us with the news that he hailed from upstate, central NY, in fact— Canastota, in Madison County. And it turns out he has loved and written poetry for years, and he quoted many, from short and funny to longer and sensitive, about trees. Needless to say, we were delighted to have Ginny and Phil with us today, and wish them back soon for another Skippy meeting.

Nancy S, just back from a family visit, cited the mature trees, especially oaks, she saw, VA as green as here. She also recalled fondly her kids’ tree-fort days back in Herkimer Co. A life-long tree-lover, she has two favorites in Cobleskill—first, a tall, regal old shagbark hickory, the matriarch of East Quarry St.; and more recently, on West Quarry, an unusual, very tall spruce, with gorgeously rounded limbs, and situated in such a perfect spot as to catch the north/west winds so that she dances in the most beautiful way. N visits the dancing princess regularly. See AW for N and Q.

We agreed to send our offering today, maybe no surprise, to a favorite green organization and place, the Landis Arboretum in Esperance.


 BENEDICTION

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

—–John Muir

I willingly confess to so great a partiality for trees as tempts me to respect a man in exact proportion to his respect for them.

—–James Russell Lowell

They paved paradise, And put up a parking lot,

They took all the trees, put ’em in tree museum,

And they charged the people, A dollar and a half just to see’em

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone…..

—–Joni Mitchell, from Big Yellow Taxi


NEXT TIME

Sunday, August 21, 2016 (1030), at Louise Johnson’s Sky Hill farm. The topic is BIRDS (and Other Flying Things?)


AFTERWORDS

from Nancy:

What I know of the divine sciences and Holy Scripture, I learnt in woods and fields. I have no other masters than the beeches and oaks.

—–St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Lost

Stand still, The trees and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask its permission to know it and be known,

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying, Here.

No two trees are the same to raven

No two branches are the same to wren.

If what a tree or a bush is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

—–David Wagoner

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach. undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: a kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

—–Herman Hesse, from Baume. Betracten und Gedichte

And a note, on my reference to the Ents—tribes of tree-people in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, shepherds of the forest, and allies of the free people of Middle Earth. (And Wiki says tree-people are among the most ubiquitous of all creatures in folklore across the world, second only to dragons.)

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