“Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but not so interesting as looking.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.
I grew up in Southern California — basically a desert. I moved away in high school; then when I returned I found that I missed the trees here in the midwest and south.
I spend a few hours in Cherokee Park every week, mountain biking and trail running. I have favorite trees and plants throughout the park, that I notice time and again when I’m out on the trails. I love watching them return to life each spring. I love looking how their dense, lush foilage makes Cherokee seem like a jungle in the summer. Then autumn arrives with it’s rich hues, and winter exposes everything, so you can see long distances through the trees and tell that you’re in an urban park.
But now I want to take this experience to the next level. I have a hard time remembering the names of trees, birds and plants so before I get too old to remember anything I want to memorize a dozen trees, a dozen plants and a dozen birds that inhabit Cherokee. Do any of you nature lovers have suggestions for me?
My inspiration and “guide” right now are two books. I know — surprising, right? It’s always books with me. Reading helps us to reframe our experience and to know things more fully than if we simply observe. For example it may seem weird to read a book on marriage but it allows us to reflect and reframe our own marriages. So my “guides” in learning the names and characteristics of trees are:
This is basically a coffee table book, with fascinating pictures. “In breathtaking photographs and stories we are taken on a journey from the boreal forest at the edge of the Arctic to the rainforests girdling the planet; from ancient bristlecones to fresh-leaved seedlings; from the charming and familiar to the scary and rare.”
This review says it all: “Focusing on widely grown trees, this captivating book describes the rewards of careful and regular tree viewing, outlines strategies for improving your observations, and describes some of the most visually interesting tree structures, including leaves, flowers, buds, leaf scars, twigs, and bark. In-depth profiles of ten familiar species – including such beloved trees as white oak, southern magnolia, white pine, and tulip poplar – show you how to recognize and understand many of their most compelling (but usually overlooked) features.”
Speaking of books, you’ve probably noticed that trees play prominent roles in the Bible, from the Garden of Eden to the cross, to the Tree of Life in Revelation. According to another of my favorite books, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, trees are images of providence in a two fold sense, they remind us of God’s provision, and they communicate abundance (because trees were scarce in Bible lands).
- Any advice for helping me memorize the names and properties of trees?