Signs of Optimism

Trees in Irving Park with signs indicating the distance from home plate

During the dry months, this is where Ellie and I enter Irving Park every day on our walks. The park offers a number of recreational opportunities for the neighborhood, as in addition to the dog park there are basketball courts, tennis courts, a playground, picnic tables, open fields, and baseball diamonds. As in surrounding Irvington, many old trees provide shade and character throughout the park. Sometimes the baseball diamonds are not in the best of shape and there are no fences in the outfield, but the types of teams that play here aren’t likely to be hitting any home runs.

So I had to smile when someone put up these little signs on a few of the trees at the edge of the park, indicating the distance to home plate. Nothing wrong with a little optimism.

Poet Tree

Poet Tree

Several people in the neighborhood post poetry outside their homes, either in a dedicated housing or in this case, attached to a large tree by the street. Sometimes the poetry is self-written, while some highlight the work of others. Ellie and I pass by this tree pretty frequently on our walks, depending on the route she wants to take home, and the postings change over time, a Pooh quote below and a poem above. I was rather struck by the current poem, Langston Hughes‘ “I, Too”. I despised poetry in my youth so it’s not surprising that I was familiar with neither poem nor poet, but I was both moved and educated on our walk that evening.

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table,
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed —

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes

The Wishing Tree

The Wishing Tree in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Oregon

One of my favorite places I pass with Ellie on our walks is the Wishing Tree, where a resident has placed tags for passers-by to write their hopes and dreams.

Some are wistful.

“I wish that I could live here so I could see my daughter every day!”

Some are whimsical.

“For some really fun first dates, followed by no ‘first dates’ ever again!”

Some are practical.

“I wish for smaller class sizes. 30 kindergartners? C’mon people!”

Some are altruistic.

“I wish for life to be happy for everyone.”

Some are heartwarming.

“I wish for the strength and willingness to keep opening my heart.”

Some are heartbreaking.

“I wish that Susan’s daughter will be healthy soon & her tumors will be removed safely.”

There are so many things I am thankful for in my life, and each day I am reminded of two of them: our wonderful dog, and the neighborhood I get to walk her in.

Wishes on the Wishing Tree

Bursting Forth

A close-up view of the bark of an old tree along the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park

I love the cracked bark of old trees, it almost looks like there is another tree inside trying to burst forth. I love the texture and colors of a tree that first sprang from the earth long before I was born and will likely be around long after I’m gone. And I love how when you look closer you see the tiny spider webs and the delicate lichen and realize there are little worlds existing within this small section of this giant tree, which is just one tree in a large forest circling a massive volcano, and you feel lucky to just be standing there, a part of one little story next to a tree that could tell thousands.

Face in the Forest

A tree that reminds me of an Olmec head

I hiked a section of the Wonderland Trail on my last full day in Mount Rainier National Park. I was exhausted from hiking on previous days with my heavy telephoto lens, and though I left it behind on this hike, the trail was an uphill slog through the forest and it was raining heavily. Making matters worse, most of the camera gear I hike with is old with no weather-sealing. Plus I discovered the hard way that my trusty old hiking boots were no longer waterproof. The clouds were so low I couldn’t even see the mountain when I reached a clearing up top, so my spirits were a little low.

On the hike back down I made myself stop and adjust my attitude. I love hiking in forests and decided my little camera was coming out in the rain, and if it died, it died. I started photographing bark and moss and was having a good time and couldn’t resist a picture of this tree that reminded me of an Olmec head (I always think of the one Mr. Burns gives Bart on the Simpsons).

The Departed Nurse

An empty space below the roots of a tree is all that remains of a nurse log

Despite its short length, the Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest provides nice views of nurse logs, fallen trees that provide a beneficial perch for seedlings to take root. As the young trees grow into giants themselves, their roots reach down around the log and into the soil. In time the log rots away, the emptiness that remains a reminder of how life for one tree began with the death of another.