Friday, May 10, 2013

Not talking Burl Ives... Just Bridger, an oddball tree and me

Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. 
-Les Brown

I remember walking my dog, Bridger, some years ago in Moscow,* the small university town where I lived and worked almost a decade. I bought a house in the historical section of town away from keg parties, boisterous yells at 2 a.m., and motorcycle revs at dawn; the streets were calm no matter night or day. 

There was a time before my condition and its repercussions took over my life and I was able to walk my dog most every day without fail - sprinkle or shine. He loved it. I knew because of the swing of his tail and the big sloppy grin on his face. I miss that big slopping grin. During our walks we passed beautiful  Dutch-colonial and Craftsman-style bungalows in sweet traditional tones with carefully manicured lawns and gardens. It was much like walking through Sunset magazine. After moving most of my childhood, I could not believe I had landed in such a serene, often tranquil place. I wanted to pinch myself. Yet like any place, the new began to wear off after several years of living there. Of course, that's another story. I always did enjoy the walks.  I could always clear my head or come up with ideas for stories. I fondly look back on those dog + mom moments with fondness; it was one of my favorite activities while living in Moscow. 

On a stroll up Sixth St. one evening, Bridger was busy sniffing flowers and grass along the sidewalk and I was daydreaming. Nearly home, I started to think about the rest of the evening and what needed to be done before work the next day. We passed the neighbor's house. 
I stopped.
Bridger slowed in his tracks, turned around to meet me.
I had never seen THAT tree before.

 I lived next door and never noticed...

Why my sudden interest in trees? Well, for those of you that don't know I do like trees. I usually don't make my dog do an acrobat in order for me to see one. Poor Bridger. He recovered fine.

This tree its limbs arched into the sky...

The trunk spotted with large, round...  Should I say, growths?

I stared at the tree from different angles.

I realized THAT VERY TREE - I don't recall the species now - was significant. The tiny round marks and the big ones scattered the length of the trunk. I knew that it looked like me on the inside. My body in pain, riddled with ... Should I say it, scars? 

A tree you pass by every day is just a tree. If you are to closely examine what a tree has and the life a tree has, even the smallest thing can withstand a curiosity, and you can examine whole worlds. --William Shatner

Tree Wisdom
Scars. I used to worry about scars. Now I concern myself with what is akin to roots of a tree: day-to-day life. It's not easy. My condition, Schwannomatosis, is a genetic malfunction of sorts. It is a rare form of Neurofibromatosis (NF) that has only recently been recognized and affects around 1:40,000 individuals. The first symptom is almost always pain, which can occur in any part of the body. It often exceeds any neurological problems. I would eventually like to kick the pain pill regime all together. I struggle with daily life now bogged down by medications yet I need something to keep the nasty pain at bay.

The sun started to set in the small north Idaho town creating a softer lens on the landscape. Thanks to the fading sun the tree had a shadow that led into the crisp mowed lawn and white gravel area where my neighbor parks her car.
I stared at the tree a moment longer. 
It was then Bridger gave me a tug. 
Time to move on. 
It was like he was saying:
"Let's go already! Enough with the tree!" 
"Let's go!" 
He put it in gear and off we went around the corner into our own yard, full of smells. I didn't see the tree from this vantage point. 
"Huh," I thought.
Bridger looked up, a keen ear to my voice.
"Good boy," I pet him on the head. A stinging pain ruptures my back, spills down my right leg.
"Owwww! Let's go in! Gotta go in!"
I am bent over yet manage to raise up.
Bridger quickly leads the way to the door, a perfect gentleman.

Some time later I find out that what I saw on the tree is called a burl. It is a "disfigured, bulbous growth" that occurs naturally in nearly every kind of tree, according to 
Premiere Tree Services (PTS).

PTS web site:

 "Burls are formed when the cells that make up new bud growth begin to deviate, dividing in many different directions and forming a large bump instead of a branch or root. The grain spirals, twists, and knots, as opposed to normal growth."

"The underlying cause of this benign condition is unknown: despite the popularity and high value of this gorgeous wood, nobody has been able to induce or prevent burl development."

"Attempting to remove a burl growth will most likely kill even the healthiest tree. Unless the burl reaches an incredible size or starts to deteriorate, your tree will most likely live a normal life."

'Own corner of nature'
I still think about seeing that tree. A lot, in fact. For some reason it had a profound effect on me. I guess because I am such a visual person and that one tree put my condition in perspective. I could see what I looked like without the MRI scans, CAT scans, white coats, and gurneys in an environment I felt at ease -- my 'hood. I felt a mirror before me there in my own corner of nature albeit odd and self-reflective yet realistically most of my camping trips in the woods are like that anyway. Ha!

I don't want you to think I've gone too crazy. It's just that when I saw that tree with its - let's say marks - I felt a kindred spirit of sorts. Crazy again, I know. I can't help it. It happened. It was my crazy me-moment. We ALL have 'em.* I could see my life in nature. It seems that these trees lead "normal lives*" - for the most part. One web site painted a much bleaker picture for tree burls. 

I want the normal, good life for me... and the trees. 

As for my readers, here's the takeaway: 

It's not a burl finder or a free photo of me and the tree. You can "whew!" that one! But listen... Let nature or just life in general teach you a little something. Don't be afraid to stop a moment and just look. Take in a sunset, a tree, or a flower. Watch your children play outside. Don't film it, Facebook it, or Instagram it. Watch it. It's invigorating. Look for the out-of-ordinary, the unusual, the plain and simple and everything in between. 

Step back once and awhile and see what happens. 

Magic of life. 

It makes you get bumps all over... Goose bumps! 

What's not to love about that?

 ©The Healing Redhead

*Pronunciation: Ma's-co
*Patients  develop multiple schwannomas on cranial, spinal and peripheral nerves--but they do not develop vestibular tumors and do not go deaf. They also do not develop any other kinds of tumors such as meningiomas, ependymomas or astrocytomas. Patients also do not have learning disabilities.
*I'm not talking Reese Witherspoon crazy.
*Their words, not mine. 

Photos: Microsoft clip art; Wikipedia (burl)

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