There are two trees in Heritage Park, gnomic, somewhat fey. They give the impression of incredible age, although I’m sure they’re not so very old. There’s just something about thick, twisted trunks and dense flowers that make one think of ancient forests in Faerie. Or at least one does if they’ve read the entire fairy tale series edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke, and other masters of fantasy.
If fantasy was never your passion, on the other hand, they’re still lovely trees with intriguing twisty trunks.
So here they are, and I’ve passed them without a second glance in other seasons. But in spring, when they’re in full bloom, they compel attention. Stand up that little flight of stairs, and you’re on par with their canopy, looking along weirdly-shaped branches laden with blossoms.
They’re cloud trees, storm trees, trees that are wild despite the fact that humans have domesticated them. I love these sorts of cultivated things, the ones that never quite manage to look fully tamed. Sometimes that’s the gardener’s art. My favorite gardeners are the ones who evoke wilderness rather than tidy things to the point of an almost bureaucratic order.
And I like this about flowering trees: they carelessly drop their petals all over landscapers’ attempts to keep things groomed. This tree drops the whole bloom, perfect and complete.
I don’t know why I thought, once, long ago, that if I became an atheist, all of the beauty and magic would go out of the world. Where does that myth come from? Living without the supernatural doesn’t mean you can’t be utterly enchanted by something beautiful, struck silent with delight standing beside a gnarled trunk under a thick canopy of floating white blooms.
Dark, lichen-covered bark stands out just as starkly against luxuriant white.
And the sky is still magnificent blue.
Stories still matter. I thought, for a while, that fantasy may no longer hold any fascination, but it does. Imagination is still intriguing. Playing with the impossible is still as joyful. About the only thing missing is the futile effort to step into Faerie or some other realm when I encounter a strange scene.
There was a time when oddly-shaped trees would have had me contemplating the means and methods for leaving the mundane world. I don’t do that anymore, which has led to less frustration and more enjoyment of the odd things. Also, the world doesn’t seem mundane at all. Science has done what magic never could: open the gate to other worlds. Worlds where I’m related to twisted trees, for instance.
And where light scatters, and evolved eyes process the result, and a little huff of breath leaves the body as the intensity of the colors strikes a brain that quite likes that sort of thing.
Who said there can’t be magic in the mundane? I just wish I’d realized the truth sooner.