In nature and in ourselves
The longest I’ve ever lived in the same house is this one. My childhood homes were many between my mother and my grandparents. I lived in between from infancy to 18, in between the times when my mom was able to care for me and the times my grandparents would provide. I never stayed in the same place for any length of time.
In the early 70s my granddad bought a house in one town and had it transported to ours and placed on top of a first-story foundation they built made of blocks. They had cut the home site out of the side of a hill with the majority of trees cleared, except for a select few fully mature tulip poplars.
Granddad hated what he called “dirty” trees, but Grandmother and I delighted in the yellow and orange tulip-shaped clusters of color that dotted the green-filled branches. The petals would eventually expire and litter the ground in the spring. Then, in autumn, the brown, ski-shaped samaras soiled what remained of the green lawn. Granddad saw the natural cycle of these trees as a nuisance, but I saw the process through the lens of wonder.
While I was enjoying the tulip poplar trees of my youth in St. Albans, WV, nearly 200 miles away, one had sprouted in the backyard of a family in Georgetown, KY. The mother of the family placed rocks around the sapling to protect it. Her son witnessed the tree grow tall, and when he returned to visit after moving from home, they would notice the yellow and orange tulip shaped clusters of color as they sat in its shade.
The first year my husband and I lived here, he went to his mother’s house for a visit and dug up two sapling sprouts from her favorite tree, and then planted them in our backyard. We watched them grow tall and full and wondered for a few years why there were no blooms until we learned it can take up to 15 years before a tulip poplar will produce flowers.
Then yesterday morning, from my back porch, I watched the sun’s beams poke through the woods and land on one of the tulip poplar trees, and there they were—yellow and orange-shaped clusters of color glowing in the expanse of green-filled branches. Fifteen years after being planted. Fifteen years here. The longest I’ve ever lived in the same place.
I feel a kinship with these trees. Maybe I needed to be in one spot for 15 years before I could bloom, too.