I managed to make it through my childhood believing that there are only 3 kinds of trees: oak, maple, and Christmas. (I can’t even blame this on a public school education.) Oak trees are, of course, the ones that drop acorns all over the yard which squirrels the size of cats then scurry around to hide for the winter. Maple trees are the ones with those leaves that look like the leaf on the Canadian flag; they are also the ones we somehow get maple syrup from…magically. Christmas trees, also known as pine trees, are the ones that don’t have leaves that turn red and orange in the fall. Rather than providing food for squirrels or providing an accompaniment to pancakes like other trees, pine trees supply a place to hang tinsel and Christmas lights; they drop pinecones everywhere which people gather for craft projects that they intend to complete, but probably don’t.
Obviously, I exaggerate a bit, but truly, my sum total knowledge regarding trees could fit in, well, an acorn cap. Despite growing up in the big city, or maybe even because I did, I have always wished that I knew more about these mysterious things called trees.
I enjoy hiking through the MetroParks with my family. I like listening for birds, looking for frogs in a pond, spying on chipmunks, avoiding dog poop left on the path by dogs with inconsiderate owners, etc. (In actuality, I don’t enjoy that last one. Hehe.) One day on a hike I would really like to be able to point out a particular tree to my children and say, “Hey, that is an “insert-tree-name-here” with some kind of authority. I would like to be able to know something cool about the various trees we encounter when we are out. I want my boys to know, understand, and appreciate the natural world around them and their place in that world.
Not that you absolutely need to know the proper names of things in order to appreciate them. After all, so said Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But it is my hope that if I can teach my children to actually take the time to stop and look up, that they will do so with purpose. Hopefully that purpose is to learn everything they can about nature so they can properly show nature the respect it deserves.
Besides…all that knowledge is obviously going to help my boys impress the ladies some day, right?