Sunday, September 20, 2009

Oak Leaves

Their leaves are forever in my memory. To know I am truly home is to see the oak trees in my backyard. I would awake in my room to the sun that came through the leaves. To lie there and make shapes out of the spaces between them was like finding shapes in the clouds.
I could sit under their shade and be shielded from the Texas sun as I read. In the fall I could make large piles of their red and brown, and leap into them.

Riding my horse on the trails through the woods in winter, I would see no leaves, but only the gnarled branches from which they grow. Twisting, tangling, they create a contrast with a stark white background.
The oldest oaks have an appearance of the most ominous wisdom. When there were hundreds of these ancient oaks around me in a little less than an acre, I could feel only my own staggering insignificance. My dad told me they would all be cut down, unless he could prove to the town board of developers that they were the oldest and largest oaks in North Texas. Native woodlands like the one I stood in with my dad contained trees that are over two hundred years old, untouched by the progress around them. He asked me to stand in front of one of them while he took a picture, my small body was dwarfed by the width of the trunk alone. Its massive, thick branches seemed to connect to every tree around it, so you could never tell where one ended and another began. I helped him wrap string around the trunks, to measure them, noticing the tags on almost every tree, already marked for cutting.
My dad was furious for weeks. Lack of support for his proposal from the others on the board had led to the leveling of that section of woodland.
Every time I come home, one more field is a shopping center, one more group of trees is missing. In anticipation I reach my house, and always find our oaks to be just a little bit taller, and their leaves a little bit greener. It is the oaks and their leaves that make me glad to be home.

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