There is a stand of five trees at the bottom of my hill whose names I do not know.
About 50 feet tall, deciduous with non-descript single-lobed leaves, they grow out of woods beside my house. I am sure they were not planted by design. I see them every day and yet have not bothered to take a stem of leaves and photos to a nursery for identification. It’s like repeatedly running into a neighbor at the store and never knowing her name but being too embarrassed to ask. I can’t go on living with strangers, so I made a point of it this week.
Now, after closer inspection, four of the them are definitely cherry trees, and by my guidebook, native bitter cherries. They have the distinctive glossy ribbon bark with horizontal bands and tiny luminous cherries in small clusters up high.
The fifth tree is different, with a dozen trunks branching out in a group at the ground. I have no excuse for not studying them sooner except that they grow at the bottom of a very steep slope that I have decided not to navigate any longer.
No-name no more! The glorious white tree is a native serviceberry tree, also called Saskatoon. I couldn’t go on communing with it without knowing its name.
Notes from this year:
The Saskatoon tree at the bottom of my hill has puffed into full fragrant white bloom. Delicate florets line each branch like butter cream facsimiles encircling a wedding cake. What a surprise! In summer it’s just a nondescript green tree of no real distinction, and in autumn the best it can do is molt to a dull yellow. But spring—in April, this once anonymous-to-me tree has become notable. Admirable. It has a few weeks to exude the joy of renewal and scent the air in sweet promises of fruition. I’ve known people like that, who live dormant lives until circumstances draw them into a latent, brief season of heady bloom. Then they recede into their quiet, ordinary lives, keeping one flower pressed between pages of a dictionary under F for fluke.
Have I had my heady season? I don’t want to be an aberration of nature; I want to flourish in all seasons. What about you?
As I wrote last month, this year I’m going to name each new moon, so today I pronounce this lunation Saskatoon Moon. With it’s delicate white blooms in full glory, this is perfect timing—plus it’s so fun to say…all together now: Saskatoon Moon. This April new moon carries the additional impetus of the freshness of spring, when so many things suddenly seem attainable. In that spirit I planted a dozen sunflowers today and will do my best to nurture more than one of them to full bloom this year—despite not really having enough sun or heat for them to flourish. But that’s no reason not to plant them and try to prove the gardening books wrong.
• Are there people or other natural beings in your life whose names who don’t know?
• Can you name all the trees in your vicinity? The shrubs? The flowers?
• Are you on a first-name basis with at least some trees in your neighborhood?
• Have you had your heady season in life? Are you trying for more?
• What things are you willing to try against someone else’s advice?
• Do you like pushing against the current?
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I’d love to hear your stories about learning the names of your neighbors in the natural world. Please share below.
Find out more about the wild cherry trees here and how they serve as my calendar.