lacking solidity or strength
That’s not to say we can’t do amazing things, things you’ll probably never do. Cradle downy owlets. Steady
flimsy tree forts.
Trees do talk to some folks, the ones we know we can trust. We talk to daredevil squirrels. We talk to hardworking worms. We talk to flashy butterflies and
to a distinctly greater extent or degree than is common
Nonetheless, if you find yourself standing near a
particularly friendly-looking tree on a
particularly lucky-feeling day, it can’t hurt to listen up.
a person who tends to shrink from social contacts
Most trees are
introverts at heart.
extend in long raised strips
ridged, reddish-gray bark; leathery leaves with pointed lobes; stubborn, searching roots; and, if I do say so myself, the best fall color on the street.
a cherished desire
But for a long time people in the neighborhood have called me the “wishtree.”
There’s a reason for this, and it goes way back to when I wasn’t much more than a tiny seed with higher
make more attractive, as by adding ornament or color
Every year on the first day of May, people come from all over town to
adorn me with scraps of paper, tags, bits of fabric, snippets of yarn, and the occasional gym sock.
a small piece of anything
Every year on the first day of May, people come from all over town to adorn me with scraps of paper, tags, bits of fabric,
snippets of yarn, and the occasional gym sock.
prolonged unfulfilled desire or need
Each offering represents a dream, a desire, a
occurring or appearing at usually irregular intervals
Wishtrees have a long and honorable history, going back centuries. There are many in Ireland, where they are usually hawthorns or the
occasional ash tree. But you can find wishtrees all over the world.
give as a gift
It’s an honor, all the hopes
bestowed upon my tired old limbs.
despite anything to the contrary
As you've probably noticed, I’m more talkative than most trees. This is new for me. I’m still getting the hang of it.
Nonetheless, I’ve always known how to keep a secret.
unobtrusively perceptive and sympathetic
You have to be
discreet when you’re a wishtree.
mark with small spots
She’s my best pal, a crow I’ve known since she was nothing but a pecking beak in a
expecting the worst possible outcome
I think Bongo is too
pessimistic for such a young bird.
hopeful that the best will happen in the future
Bongo thinks I’m too
optimistic for such an old tree.
a sudden desire
As is the custom with crows, Bongo chose her name after her first flight. It may not be her only name, however. Crows change names on a
whim. Bongo’s cousin, Gizmo, has had seventeen names.
a deliberate coordinated movement requiring dexterity
They’ll name themselves after aerobatic
maneuvers: DeathSpiral or BarrelRoll.
someone who imitates
Many crows opt for sounds they’re fond of making. (Crows are excellent
a biologist specializing in the study of plants
Over the years, I’ve learned that
botanists—those lucky souls who study the lives of plants all day—call some trees, such as hollies and willows, “dioecious,” which means they have separate male and female trees.
get involved, so as to alter or hinder an action
There’ve been so many times I’ve wanted to speak up, to
intervene, to help people.
in an abundant manner
He woke up to Fly, who was apologizing
profusely, squatting on his forehead.
a failure to perform some promised act or obligation
breach of the Don’t Talk to People rule.
having many complexly arranged elements; elaborate
People speak with the help of lungs, throats, voice boxes, tongues, and lips, thanks to an
intricate symphony of sound and breath and movement.
held in check with difficulty
An eyebrow cocked, a giggle
stifled, a tear brushed aside: These, too, are ways you express yourself.
move through by or as by digging
Folks nest on my branches.
Burrow between my roots. Lay eggs on my leaves.
a cavity or space in something
hollows—holes in a trunk or branch—are not uncommon, especially in trees like me who’ve been around awhile.
far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree
One year I was home to a lovely and
exceedingly polite porcupine family.
save up as for future use
Long story. (I have lots of those, stored up the way a squirrel
contemptibly small in amount or size
It was a big wound, slow to heal, and my spring leafing that year was
paltry, my fall color pale (and, frankly, embarrassing).
violent or severe weather
Hollows offer protection from the
argue over petty things
Grass cools the earth, but it also
bickers with me over water.
novel; having no earlier occurrence
unprecedented. Never have I sheltered so many babies. It just doesn’t happen. Animals like space.
marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
She is perhaps ten years old or so, with
wary eyes and a shy smile.
walk heavily and firmly, as when weary, or through mud
Even on the coldest nights, she
trudged outside in her red boots and green jacket.
proceed somewhere despite the risk of possible dangers
As it grew warmer, Samar would
venture out in her pajamas and robe and sit beneath me on an old blanket, spattered with moonlight.
clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
Her silence was so complete, her gentleness so
apparent, that the residents would crawl from their nests of thistledown and dandelion fluff to join her.
put up with something or somebody unpleasant
Bongo keeps a stash of odds and ends in one of my smaller hollows (which the opossums kindly
make illegal payments to in exchange for favors or influence
“You never know who I might need to
bribe,” she likes to say.
But her gifts to Samar weren’t
bribes. They were just Bongo’s way of saying, “I’m glad we’re friends.”
the state when one person or group has power over another
Animals compete for resources, just like humans. They eat one another. They fight for