Bags and bags of fallen leaves, and springtime pollen makes me sneeze. Broken sidewalks skin my knees. I’ve looked at trees that way.
Their massive size obstructs my view and sticky sap gets on my shoe. So many things that I could do, but trees get in my way.
I really don’t know trees at all. Luckily, Lesa, our family’s very own Joni Mitchell, kindly sent us a copy of Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, a guidebook to some of the most popular and treasured trees in the park. The excellent field guide led us through the park’s diverse and developed tree collection, which compares with any national botanical garden or arboretum.
Horticulturalist and landscape architect Kate Sessions, the “Mother of Balboa Park”, originally planted over one hundred different species of trees in the park. Because she grew most of the trees from seeds, Kate Sessions didn’t live to see her saplings grow to maturity. Thanks to her efforts; however, we can look at her full-grown trees from both sides, now.
Trees are considered impediments to success, on the popular Morley Field Disc Golf Course, in the northeast corner of Balboa Park. During a recent round of “hippie golf”, we cursed the trees as we lumberjacked through the mirkwood like a couple of pinball wizards. In disc golf, trees present all kinds of punishing obstacles, but many other outdoor activities are made for the shade.
On the park’s west mesa, a pickup game of Ultimate Frisbee played in the long cool shadows of a row of Canary Island Pines. Nearby, under the broad leafy canopy of a large Holly Oak, yogis in a group of one hundred or more practiced in the sprawling shade. Like a framed work of art, blooming Firewheel and Purple Orchid trees bordered the closely-mowed and manicured greens of the San Diego Lawn Bowling Club.
When we stopped to watch the bowlers roll their bowls, Tom Anderson, an 84 year old master, offered to teach us the game. As it turns out, the bowls are neither spherical nor do they have finger holes. We felt like inebriated Weebles rolling these oblate and wobbly balls down the narrow rink. In his supportive and tranquil manner, Tom sympathized with our frustration, and repeated that the key to the game is to relax and just take it easy.
After our troubles on the short grass of the bowling green, we heeded Tom’s advice and took a break beneath a nearby Cork Oak tree. As we lounged in the shade, we considered the value and importance of trees. Worldwide, they are used for lumber in construction, ingredients in medicines and pharmaceuticals, and syrup on top of pancakes and waffles. Of all the valuable trees on earth, we decided that the most essential was the humble Cork Oak, for without it, all the wine in the world would leak out of their bottles.
Just outside the park, we uncorked a bottle of our own, and watched the San Diego Firefighters Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Band pass by in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Predictably, the trees of Balboa Park were dressed in green for the occasion.
This might be the wine talking, but I think I’ve looked at trees from both sides, now. They are exquisite and noble living things, but they can also drop a hard cone on your head or leave you with a sappy surprise on the seat of your pants. In the final analysis, after my extensive research, and an adequate amount of wine, I still really don’t know trees at all.