Essays

It’s all in your perspective, remembering…�

Houston, Texas July, 2010

Looking through this wide, upstairs window I’m reminded of my first glimpse of Greenwood Forest. That was in the spring of 1972, and our spanking new subdivision sat smack in the center of thick, inviting woodlands. Sadly, chaotic and ongoing development has slowly stripped our neighborhood of bordering forests. Still, Greenwood valiantly clings to its bucolic name, and our forest, through smaller, remains intact.

With slight effort anyone can find her way back to those untouched woodlands. For my part, I simply climb familiar stairs to this computer room and I’m high in a virtual tree house. Admittedly, the ridge of a neighboring roof appears to float above the window sill, but my remaining view is filled with full, leafy treetops. Gnarled ranches, dotted with playful squirrels and chattering birds, rise well above the intrusive roof line. At this writing, patches of bright, blue sky peek through ample foliage. But when storms brew, the skies grow fearfully dark and my dignified trees writhe in rising winds – just as in pristine woodlands.

My view from this window is ever-changing: from colorless, dry leaves to stark, at times, ice-coated branches; to hopeful, pale green buds; to full summer foliage.

And, despite the infamous claim that Houston lacks a true autumn, my forest floor becomes a carpet of brown, withered leaves. Never mind that part of my woodland floor is man-made cement. Wind scatters our fallen leaves, softening the mundane driveway and giving it a touch of the aesthetic.

Going down the stairs again, I glance through French doors at our tiny courtyard, protected by aging, wrought iron gates. This courtyard has changed little since 1972. True, the builder-planted azalea has long since expired, as have patches of ajuga, lovingly set out years ago by my mother. The demise of that ground cover was hastened by a shade-loving mongrel called B.C., a subject for another day. What has survived is the broad-leaved, dark green Cast Iron plant. Courtyard walls have kept this plant from spreading and I never knew I should thin theresilient foliage. Its tall, straw-slender stalks grow close together in poorly drained soil and thrive on neglect. But after a rainstorm, the dark leaves are clean and glistening, and I count this tiny patch of green as an integral part of my tiny forest. A squat cement frog, some fifteen inches tall, lives there. He was won eons ago at a church fall festival. The frog wears discolored patches, smiles contently and proudly rules his little courtyard kingdom.

Homes here have aged gracefully since I first arrived, and our mature neighborhood rests snugly and satisfied in its remaining forest. I hope that wherever you live a smidgen of nature also remains. Futhur, of an early, cool morning, I urge you to walk through your small patch of woods. Encourage young children to lie down between tree trunks and quietly gaze upward at slender, towering pines. And those piles of spent pine needles and fallen leaves?  They’re meant to be heaped and tunneled and enjoyed by young children.

Whenever you need a sabbatical from noise and confusion, take refuge in your small personal forest. If you’ve only a single tree, a patch of grass or carefully-tended potted plants – solace is there. Watch as raindrops cling to the tip of a leaf; walk silently over layers of pine straw; pay mind to gossiping birds and anxious squirrels. Sit and reflect. The forest, au natural, is still here.

It’s all in your perspective.

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