There’s this tree in the front yard that I just can’t get over. If you are on the porch, looking out toward the street, you’ll see the trunk rise to your right, shadowing the sidewalk below. It stretches so much higher than you can see, past the bedroom windows, higher. But from here, you count one, two…eleven branches outstretched. Before you there is so much green—leaves crossing the sky, weighing down the branches, dipping low. Among the leaves are flowers—hundreds—pale yellow and green, flecked with orange. On a late-spring-but-let’s-call-it-summer morning, when the air is thick but not still, and the sky is blue and white and gray, all at once, the light will catch between the leaves, and it will hurt your eyes to look.
I’ve called this the “tulip tree” since it first began to bloom, and I turned to my husband and said, “Oh! Those look like tulips up there.” My heart trilled more than a little bit when, on a recent trip to the Botanical Garden, I spotted one of the same; and on the placard were the words, “Tulip Tree.” Liriodendron tulipifera, to be accurate. But.
I’m sitting on the railing, ankles crossed, legs dangling over the hostas, and with every breath of wind another flower falls. The birds are going crazy, and I can’t help but feel that Snow White’s about to drop by, and we’ll all break into song.
I don’t know much at all about this tree—when it was planted; if it needs care; how much longer until that one branch falls onto the neighbor’s truck. But every day, it thrills me. There’s the sense of wonder that comes from the obvious metaphor—of what’s ephemeral and what endures, of how much longer it has lived, and will, than I. Everything it’s seen pass in and out of this house. So many people and stories. I think, too, of Baucis and Philemon, and of how that’s how I’d like to go. All I know, I guess, is that it’s here, and our family is here, too, and that it’s ours as much as a tree can ever be anyone’s—on a mortgage. And tonight, if the rain holds, we’ll sit out on the porch, and have a beer, and watch the sun and the flowers fall.