On trees

I love the Mallard ducks in my new header photo. We have droves of them around the DC area, mostly along the Potomac River where they nest. Pictured above is one brown female and three males. These birds are courting.  She is like a Southern Belle with beaus swarming all around.  Which one will she choose?  After she decides, they will build a nest nearby. The Potomac is lined with bird sanctuaries, the wonderful legacy of twentieth century conservationists.

I’m happy to be out in the natural world, or what remains of it in this urban milieu.   But like Thoreau, I am just as happy to be back among humans. Yes, our great naturalist liked his human comforts.

As Joyce Kilmer wrote ages ago,

I’m glad to turn from the open road and the starlight on my face, And leave the splendor of all outdoors for a human dwelling place.

Although he isn’t quoted so often now, I learned in high school English classes that Kilmer was one of the great poets of WWI.  Recently, when I took graduate history classes, I learned modern scholars have other favorites like Alan Seeger (I have a rendezvous with death), uncle of Pete.

But Kilmer was the darling of school kids in my generation who concerned themselves with trees and the disappearing natural world.

“I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.”

To which some wag added. “I think unless the billboards fall, I’ll never see a tree a all.”

We also read Tennyson, Byron, Walt Whitman and George Elliot or Mary Ann Evans as she is known today.

In my school in the South, they didn’t divide American and British literature.  We used the British spellings of words and the maps on the walls in our classrooms depicted the British Empire which still existed.  We thought we were part of the Empire.  We didn’t hear much about the Revolution or what we called ‘The War Between the States’ in those days.

English: Virgin hardwood at the Joyce Kilmer M...

Virgin hardwood at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in Graham County, North Carolina, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Joyce Kilmer tree in Central Park

Joyce Kilmer tree in Central Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After lunch, in what we called Junior High, the teacher had us lay our heads on our desks as she read Alcott’s LIttle Men aloud.  Perhaps you recall that Alcott’s father fought in the Civil War?  A fact I never learned until much later.

But all this was so long ago, in a world disappeared along with most billboards. Fortunately, it left behind a few trees.

11 thoughts on “On trees

  1. That famous line runs through my head every time I pass the Joyce Kilmer rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike (where all the rest stops are named after famous New Jerseyans). Maybe I should go find out more about him.


  2. Your posts are always very interesting Dianne and I love to read poetry. I am a person who would love to hug a tree and I also love to study the bark on trees. I never heard the billboard ending. Happy Sunday to you.


  3. My daughter minored in poetry and loves the stuff. Me, not so much…wish I did, tho! The mallard shot is so sweet with the female having her pick of so many males. Guess you will be seeing some little ducklings soon!


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