Sunday, 5 May 2013

Autumn and the Liquidamber Tree

We grew up with a liquid amber tree in our front yard. It is huge now, towering over our now seemingly little house. It is 'The Tree' that you landmark for our home. "Yes, see that big tree on the right, that's our house". 

When Mum and Dad first moved there one winter, my older brother was due that spring. What delight Mum had when the tree first began to bud and show its bright green, almost leathery leaves.  The tree had been planted no more than ten years earlier.  As it grew and we grew, we began to climb. The branches almost begged to be climbed. I remember distinctly the rhythm of climbing: the repetitive placement of hands and feet was important in the speed and ease climbing those first ten to fifteen branches. We climbed up so high! We had no fear.

I had always dreamed of having a tree house, but it never happened, it wasn't a disappointment for me though. There were other things our tree could be. I had even named some of the branches, like the one which was near to the pedestrian path had a name for me. Something like the 'Landing Branch' because I could creep along slowly, slowly, slowly until the branch was almost touching the ground and then quickly jump off before it sprang back up. 

During autumn my brothers would rake the leaves into big piles which were then mowed down. Running through piles of the crunchy leaves always brought a smile to my face. Even now, I can't help myself when walking past a crunchy looking leaf. 

The seed pods which we called 'conkers' are a great sensorial experience. Green and fresh from the tree they are slightly cool, softer spikes and moist, or the brown, dried hard, crunchy ones which are very spiky in the hand and painful under bare feet!  

We also enjoyed adding the dried out brown conkers with the kindling to the fire. We had an open fireplace in our lounge room. They looked spectacular when the fire caught onto them. 

This is my favourite tree. It displays the seasons so dramatically. I now use this tree to explain the seasons to the children. Right now we are in the last month of autumn. The leaves are changing from green to yellow, orange to red, and the last leaves hanging will soon fall to the ground for winter to reveal the tall bare trunk and long branches.

Winter is near. 

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