I know I am not supposed to imbue trees with personalities and yet …
the forests where I grew up were tough and scrappy: mostly aspen, pine and spruce. The boreal forest was all about survival. The trees of the west coast were ancient mystical beings. Hemlock and cedar wrapped in mossy ghosts and misty dragons.
As far as I can tell there are no forests in or near Austin but I have come to appreciate the drama of a savannah landscape. It takes a lot of personal power for a tree to grow strong and tall here. The ones that survive tend to be solitary and magnificent — the centre or subject of a composition.
I don’t think I ever saw an actual oak tree when I was growing up. Oaks lived in imagination land. Sherwood Forest? Probably oak trees. Druids gathering mistletoe? Oak trees. The fairies and anthropomorphic animals of a million cheap picture books all seemed to live in oak forests. If they couldn’t find a match box, they made coracles from acorn tops and bobbed down creeks to seek adventure and the truth of themselves. Oak trees were the stuff of dreams and stories.
I didn’t realize that in reality there were so many kinds of oak trees. Texas A & M’s helpful site about trees lists 15 kinds. Even with their guide I am not sure of the type of oak tree living in our backyard. I think it is a post oak. Whatever name it goes by it is a wildlife favourite. This is the tree where I always find birds or lizards foraging and resting. I have even seen squirrels taking naps on the branches. It isn’t at the centre of my property but it functions like an axis mundi.
This summer I have enjoyed watching the development of some bur oak acorns growing nearby. This one looks like a lion’s mane or maybe a monk’s tonsure.
I like the tidy woven cap of this one.
And then there are the live oaks of Austin … they just sing of expansiveness and hospitality to me. Arms wide open: safe and free enough to just stretch out and take up as much space as they want. My son never needed much encouragement to scramble up and into their welcoming limbs.