Thursday, June 10, 2004

Natural History Notes: June is Linden Month

The passage of the seasons is marked for me by the annual rhythms of plant and animal life. In early May, the Chimney Swifts return without fail, and only then do I feel that Spring has truly arrived. The approach of the Solstice, and thus Summer, is marked by the blooming of the Linden trees, scenting the air with an unforgettable perfume.

For 20 years I lived in a house stoutly guarded by a Linden (probably the little-leaf Linden, Tilia cordata, or a related hybrid). Our entire street was lined with Lindens, and our own was one of the biggest on the block. I don't know if this was because it was planted earlier, or because our front yard happened to be a particularly propitious spot.

I learned the tree-climbing ropes on our Linden. The branches came out of the trunk perpendicularly, making a nice ladder-like ascent possible. When my father pruned the lowest branches, my tree-climbing was temporarily stunted, until I had grown enough in stature and boldness to hoist myself up to the next lowest rungs of this heavenward stair.

Our Linden's branches were always covered with a black, sooty grime that rubbed off on one's hands and clothes. I still remember the dusky smell of the tree's skin on my hands. Was this the natural character of the bark, or a sign of other denizens of the arboreal world? I haven't climbed a Linden tree, (or any tree, for that matter) in many years, and so have no grounds for comparison.

Being in the top of a tree is a wonderful feeling. You feel on top of the world, light as a feather, held aloft in the arms of some friendly giant. The sky, and adventure, and hope, all seem much closer, as you sway in the gentle summer breeze. Sad is the childhood without a tree to climb.

(Click on the photo below to see a larger version.)

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