As I finished my morning hike today a leafy branch of a Eucalyptus tree brushed the top of my head. For a moment I allowed myself to be a child again and decided that the tree was reaching down and saying hello, greeting me like an ancestor from long ago. I turned to look over my shoulder and smiled back at the tree. Why not? Eucalyptus trees are very friendly and generous with their charms. They give off the scent of earth and mint after the rain, their leaves offer comfort in medicinal ways, the enormous branches give filtered sunlight and shade. Sometimes they speak too. When the wind rushes through their limbs a gentle creak can be heard, if you are listening.
But like most things in nature the Eucalyptus tree can get angry and vengeful if ignored too long. Their enormous limbs can break from the weight of never being trimmed, crushing the unsuspecting Prius or SUV. Their leaves and bark can virtually explode in a wildfire. Recently a giant, friendly tree was chopped down in my neighborhood because the city had neglected to trim it, and its arms broke in a strong wind. The stump is still evident and if I took the time to count its rings I’m sure it could tell me an 80 year old story…at the very least. A similar demise came to a gigantic, old Magnolia tree across the street. It too suffered from neglect and although beautiful in it’s enormity, it was bound to fall. In a recent (and rare) storm, this tree split in it’s middle like a flower opening it’s petals. The weight of the water upon its limbs proved to be too much.
There are those that detest the Eucalyptus because it is not native to California, does not support animal life, and tends to take over in its ability to grow everywhere. And again, it proves quite angry in a fire. I don’t care.
From my window where I sit I can see one now. It is incredibly tall and at least a block from my home. At the moment its branches look like Captain Hook bending down to kiss the hand of Wendy. Really- I swear. Which reminds me of something else. A few summers ago I was vacationing back east with my sister and her children. The movie du jour was Peter Pan and was to be watched daily. On one particular evening my sister and I were dining with some friends and the meal was proving tense due to a particular loon at the table. To escape the madness we walked outside to a deck overlooking sand dunes and a glowing ocean. It was a full moon. Our reverie was broken almost immediately when said loon appeared at our side. I felt my sister begin to move away but before she could escape, I pointed out a cloud passing in front of the moon. It was Captain Hook’s ship.
Although she will be the first to tell you that my imagination usually gets the better of me, I know she will attest to what I say is true. We both laughed and shook our heads at the irony and sheer beauty of the moment. If only the captain had sent Smee down to capture our addled companion.
So yes, my friend the Eucalyptus patted me on the head this morning, encouraging me to have a fine day, to be sure to come back to the park tomorrow, and reminding me that the only constant in life is change.