Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Tree in the River

I think we could all agree that it is a well established fact that I am a nature lover. In all honesty, I am just a few grains of granola away from being a full fledged tree hugger, but I find I am far too attached to my smoothly shaved underarms and deodorant. But I assure you I am far more attached to mother nature than any sane person ought to be, and take slights to her person extremely seriously. Hell hath no fury than Laine when the electric company advances on her 150 year old oak trees. I have single-handedly made burly adult men with chain saws back away from my property, while trembling and shaking like saplings in the wind. I can go Julia Sugarbaker in a millisecond when a local resident decides that their 200 year old maple must be sacrificed to the gods of Bermuda grass. And of course my feelings extend to all creatures great and small (with the exclusion of the afore-mentioned shovel headed worms). I am such a fanatic in fact that I refused to allow a dead tree to be removed from my side yard for fear that a momma squirrel might be raising a brood in it's trunk. And this was no newly dead tree; this tree was so incredibly dead that it's limbs had long ago fallen from it's trunk, it's bark peeled away to reveal a shining grey skin, and a precarious lean developed that drove my cranky neighbor to distraction. I simply would not allow it to be chopped down and hauled away, so mother nature took care of it for me. Cranky neighbor got a new fence, and our insurance paid for the removal, so really, in the end everyone came out a winner...
Evey spring we have what I like to call thunder-blusters. These are enormous storms, which always seem to hit in the dead of night, and threaten to take down everything in their paths. The morning after these natural disasters we awake to see whose gorgeous 150 year old oak has been sacrificed to the gods of the wind, and whether or not said gods have also required the sacrifice of a roof or fence along with the tree. Some of these storms go on for absolute weeks in the spring, which of course results in flooded river banks all over the state.
To get from my home to our office we have to cross a huge bridge over the Arkansas river. One spring, after such a multi week deluge, the river over-ran her banks and drug to her murky depths all form of flotsam. At one point I noticed a rather nice sized oak tree had been trundled into the river, and appeared to be lodged, roots skyward, in a sandbar in the dead center of the river. I mourned momentarily for the death of such a gorgeous specimen, and wondered briefly how long it would be until it washed away from it's temporary anchor. But day after day, bridge crossing after bridge crossing, the tree remained rooted firmly in it's sand bar.
Now, even with all my ardor for nature, I do not claim to be a arborist. However, there are a few things I know about oak trees, and they are as follows:
A)They do not grow in the middle of rivers
B)They do not grow with their roots in the air
I first spotted my oak tree in the river three springs ago. Every spring since that day it has sprouted new leaves, greened through the summer, and gone dormant in the winter. For three years my River Oak has remained firmly rooted to it's sandbar, and continued it's life cycle in what has to be the most miraculous example of that trite little adage "bloom where you're planted" I've ever seen.
Life has a desire to thrive. Inside each plant, animal and human is the instinct to preserve its own life at all costs. How beautiful would our world be if we could somehow expand that instinct to a protection of all life, and not just our own? Would we be dealing with global warming, animal extinctions, and even war? I think not.
I may not be able to work on a global level, but I can assure you I'll be keeping watch over my own little piece of mother earth...and those men with their chainsaws better back away from my River Oak.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I live in a small Southern town

I live in a small Southern town. Now, granted, the town in which I live is neither that far South nor is it really all that small, but you won't convince the residents of this small Southern town of those facts; myself included. The town in which I live, and have called home for 21 years, is quintessentially Southern in all the ways that count. All of the women in my small Southern town have the same first name: Miss. There are Miss Suzanne's and Miss Katherine's, Miss Martha's and Miss Marianne's. It's fabulous, and it's very very Southern. A young lady knows that she has finally passed that mystical bridge into womanhood when someone her junior refers to her as "Miss". I am now commonly called "Miss Laine" by a myriad of high school girls, but I commonly refer to anyone older than myself as "Miss Whomever". It is a wonderful mark of respect, and an acknowledgement that the "Miss" to whom you are speaking is in fact older, wiser, and deserving of your admiration.
In this small Southern town we still adhere to all the "old" rules. No matter what Vogue may tell me is acceptable I absolutely cannot wear white after labor day. The rule against said behavior is so ingrained in my soul that I have come to believe that were I to step a toe into the sunlight in white after the first Monday in September I'd burst into flame, like some fashion vampire. We send thank you notes for everything, and do so in our own handwriting and in a timely fashion. We pull over for funeral processions, and take food in to the ailing. Girls still don't regularly call boys, and if they do they secretly feel guilty. Cotillion is alive and well, balls and soiree's are still attended, beauty pageants wins are still admired, and Sunday is still a day of reverence and respect. And we may fight bitterly with our neighbor, but we'll be the first ones there in their time of need.
It gets so hot here in the summer that the shingles drip off the roofs of houses, but lemonade still quenches the thirst and picnics still tame the savages beasts. It's a place where prayer is a verb, not a noun. The pace is slower here, and we like it that way. Yes, there is industry and technology and wi-fi and and all the rest. But there is also respect, and concern, and love and faith.
To many, this small Southern town in which I live might seem out of time. It might confuse you, or amuse you, but the reality is, it's a lingering gem in a world of speed and rush and discontent. Change is good, but there is great good in sameness as well. So I grow, and age, and change. I evolve and plan and create. But I am certainly glad that I get to do it in the loving arms of the wonderful family I have here in this small Southern town.