Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Daily Sketches #4. The Tree from My Window

Mountain Ash (Rowan) Seen from My Kitchen Window

Write about a tree (or another plant) that you see from your window. What kind of tree it is? How tall it is? Does it bear fruit or berries? Is it a home to birds or small animals? If not, could it be a home to mythical creatures? What would you think of it as a child?

As I was coming up with the ideas for these prompts, I thought (I can't not think at all what I would write about, even though I try to stop those thoughts and sort of forget my own ideas, so they will still feel fresh when I sit down to actually write about them) that I would probably write about our front yard that looks more like a park. A variety of overgrown trees and bushes, huge ferns, the holly tree which could very well be the tallest holly tree in the world, or the blooming (often twice a year) azaleas and rhododendrons – so many plants to write about, so many visitors we get in our front yard, from the cute and naughty neighbor cat that drives our indoor cat mad, to adorable wild rabbits and raccoons and all sorts of birds – blue jays, robins, hummingbirds and more. But when it came time to write this prompt, I actually decided to not write about our woodsy backyard. I decided to write about trees that bear berries on our driveway.
I love the place where we live, for so many different reasons. I feel surprisingly at home here, from the first time I visited this humble little house. And one of the reasons that makes me feel at home are a few trees that remind me about my native home. As much as I love rhododendrons, I mostly admire them, they take my breath away with their bright beauty, abundant blossoms and almost infinite variety. But there are a couple of trees that do not strike a passersby as magnificent – their appearance is on a quiet side, but if you care to stop by and look for a minute, you will find a soft spot in your heart for their quiet beauty. One of them is a birch tree, and another one a mountain ash – both are very common in my homeland, both have deep roots in the Russian folk culture, and somewhat similar meaning too, symbolizing young innocent girls or women in love, with their long flexible branches, soft tender leaves, the ability to stretch their hand-branches and to lean towards other, stronger looking trees, with thick trunks and strong, straight-up appearance. So very similar to the feelings women tend to have towards a man they love – big and strong, the one who won’t break in the wind, the one you can lean on, hugging him tenderly in a miserable weather. Sometimes, in the folk songs, the girl-tree is crying, longing for her beloved one who is way too far from her, and again, being a strong upward tree, cannot lean in her direction, does not see her, does not recognize her – so she is sad with her unrequited love and the destiny that separated them.
I see both a beautiful birch tree and a gorgeous mountain ash tree from my front window, at the neighbor’s yard across the road, but we also are lucky to have a gorgeous, tall mountain ash tree growing right by our driveway. It is tall and strong, with the branches upward, not at all what thin and feminine mountain ash trees are back in Siberia (you can see them both in the woods, and in people’s yards). It is a strong woman, a proud one, an independent one, with bright and abundant berries decorating her beautiful leafage - not at all sad, not at all week, not at all lonely. She stays there knowing her own worth, not asking to love her, but rather knowing that she is worth of love. Yet under that strong appearance, I still see the sensitive, flexible side of a mountain ash, I see tenderness.
I’m often surprised by the fact that birds do not eat the berries for many months – I guess, just as to people’s taste, they seem too bitter (I heard that birds to not taste spiciness, but I guess they do taste bitterness). In Russia, people say that you need to wait for the first frost to gather mountain ash berries – then the bitterness goes away. People make all sorts of preserves and drinks out of those berries which contain all sorts of vitamins and other good things in them. Here, mountain ash starts showing off the bright orange berries as early as July, and they will be up on the tree, big festive bunches of them, till late Fall. I think our local birds have plenty to choose from, so they leave these berries towards the end, when there is less variety in nature. Or maybe they leave these berries till the first frost, like Russian people do? I will try to observe when the berries start disappearing from the branches this year.


  1. It's touching to me how trees that we walk, drive and sit next to every day become a part of our lives. It would be so easy for us to just ignore them, thinking that as plants they can't be that important to us. And yet, it's clear that they are. In their own way, they contribute to our lives and we too have the chance to contribute to theirs. I'm glad we wrote about them here. They deserve the attention. Imagine our home, or even our world without trees ... scary!

    I found your characterization of the Mountain Ash very touching. I am new to them since we moved here to Puget Sound. I don't recall seeing them in not-very-mountainous Ohio. Ash trees, yes, we had two in our front yard. But no berries and not such dramatic shapes. Thank you for introducing them to me properly. :)

  2. I'm a huge Rowan fan. It's a beautiful and magical looking tree and sadly I can't find anywhere where I live. Used to I've been making rowan jewelry and I've always liked rowan jam:) This tree brings good memories for me. I like how you wrote about it. Birch is also one of my favorite ones and also willow:)

  3. I couldn't agree with Justin more. They are yard markers in life. This was such a great prompt-seemingly benign, but so much to imagine. For those of us that live in places with the four seasons, there is nothing more poetic in my humble opinion than than the annual cycle of a tree.

  4. mountain ash! here its "vogelbeerbaum" - bird berry tree! weak and soft in a wood but strong and often very old as solitaire high on the mountains. i love them too. we have a young one beside the birches at our garden border, i hope it will get big over the times.
    hugses!!! tons of!!! xxxx

  5. So interesting that the birch tree symbolises a young girl in Russian folk tales. It is the same case in Croatia.

    There is one short novel by Slavko Kolar about a man Marko who marries a young slender girl everyone calls Breza (birch tree). She grows sick after the birth of their child and Marko loses interest in her. When she dies, he goes to celebrate somebody's wedding without any feeling of guilt...but in the dark while he gets back from the wedding, he sees a birch tree and thinks it is his wife. He decides to chop down the tree but when he returns there, he can't do it....He is tormeted by guilt because he hadn't been there for his wife when she needed him and now he is haunted by her ghost....it's a very sad story. Usually the students are required to read it in elementary school and it always made us all depressed:). I think this particular novel would be better suited for high school than elementary school.