Tag Archives: Morehead

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So Many Trees, So Many Memories

I began this essay jotting down a few “favorite tree” thoughts, and soon came to realize how so many different trees have touched and shaped my life and memories. So, unfortunately for this essay, but fortunately for me personally, I don’t have “one favorite tree” – I have so many!

I am grateful to my mother for passing on an appreciation for trees – to warm, cool, comfort, and beautify the body and soul. Thank you, Mother, for insisting on saving every tree possible!

After reading Tom Martin’s UnderMain essay project, I briefly considered what tree in my past was a particular favorite, and my thoughts focused on more recent favorite tree memories connected to my sons’ adventures in them – Empty Nest Mother memories, I guess. However, in addition to some favorites of theirs, I realized my entire life has been enhanced by these wonders of nature – so, a shout-out of gratitude to my Creator, first off!

I guess if I had to pick just one, I would pick “my” lemon tree that lived for 37 years after I planted grocery store lemon seeds as a five-year-old in my Mother’s front porch flower pot.

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It was transplanted in larger and larger pots, to a final garbage can (not the most lightweight planter option), traveled across two states and to five or six homes and/or apartments, and bore fruit twice. It was a real “pain” to move and transplant, due to the very large thorns and the weight of it as it grew; my father, and then my husband were troopers for lugging it indoors and out, and from home to home, season after season! It lived a long, full, fragrant life in a climate zone not conducive to citrus trees – thus the reason it was a houseplant much of the year.

An early favorite tree was a beautiful Knoxville, Tennessee mimosa, in a spacious yard with a wonderful house full of family love and memories.

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The house was situated beside a cemetery and across the railroad tracks; my brother and I grew up safely playing in the yard unafraid of either – although, they may have led to my lifelong love of the Dark Shadows television show, Stephen King books, and scary movies!

At my grandparent’s farm in Carlisle, KY, was a large shade tree that I spent many summer afternoons under, reading a great book in a lawn chair, after helping with the chores.

OK, I mostly just watched and/or rode the tractor as my hard-working grandparents grew three gardens, and raised tobacco, farm animals, and livestock. We also attended the Saltwell Methodist Church, with its beautiful stained glass windows, and I spent time with my grandmother at the ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization & Conservation Service) office in town, where she worked – she let me file papers and work the “adding machine”.

After a move to Morehead, KY in 1969 as a new 5th grader, the K-12 University Breckinridge School (“Breck”) tree out front, with a circular wooden bench, was a favorite for all students; especially for the girls when we reached high school age and sat under while watching the college guys walk or drive by – one of the many perks of attending a small-town university-owned “training” school on a college campus!

At my Morehead home on North Tolliver Road, near the MSU football stadium, we had a lovely weeping Chinese elm, under which I also read and enjoyed alone time, during my preteen and teen years.

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With love and marriage, came the many special trees my husband, Richard and I have planted in our 30 years together; to give us warmth, cooling, comfort and beauty – a Mother’s advice is often so wise. Planting a tree together, and watching it grow, is highly recommended – it’s  a lot like parenting – you have to take care of it early on, then it will reward you for the rest of your life!

And, finally, with the parenthood of boys, came so many “favorite” climbing tree memories and laughter! Our sons, now grown, gave us full hearts – and some intense moments – of joyful memories from climbing trees at home; in Ashland Park, the Henry Clay estate; at Lake Cumberland, including building a treehouse with Dad, climbing a rope tied around a tree trunk to get to a nearby waterfall where they jumped off, and a tree rope that allowed them to swing over the water and fall in; and climbing tall trees at Meemaw & Poppy’s house.

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Those “favorite” trees often held John and Daniel safe and gave them years of testing their limits; but also taught them tough life lessons, by letting them fall, and even allowing a swarm of bees give Daniel a particularly “not so favorite tree” life-long memory!

Thank you, UnderMain, for giving me a chance to slow down long enough to realize what a tree really means to me, and the many family and friends I have enjoyed favorite trees with for 50-plus years.

Truly, every tree is my favorite!

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The Lone Oak

I became acquainted with the old bur oak tree near downtown Lexington not as a child, but as a very young adult. It was something of a Lexington landmark and I think it deserves a story. Its own place in history. No doubt, according to the tree specialists, it had at least a couple of centuries of stories to tell since Lexington was settled in June of 1775 and this ancient tree was at least that old.

The bur oak was located right off Lafayette Parkway leading up to Lafayette High School. Barely out of our teens, my husband and I were hunting for our first house and our realtor showed us a rather decrepit small home with this magnificent tree in the backyard. I don’t know if we bought the house because of the house or because of the tree. It was astonishing. Spreading my arms as wide as I could, I still could not embrace its diameter.

I don’t know how tall it was but it was too tall for tree specialists to even contemplate taking it down back in the 1970s. Bur oaks often grow 200-300 feet tall. It was many feet in circumference. It shaded our entire home in the summer with its big, brawny limbs. In the fall, it produced the most interesting acorns and gallons of them. These trees produce the largest acorns of any oak tree and they often were the preferred food for bears, harkening back to another time in the history of the place where Lexington began.

Besides enjoying the fact that this special tree was in our newly-acquired back yard, it provided a conversation starting point with our neighbors on the aptly-named Lone Oak Street. Our neighbors were a couple old enough to be our grandparents and well-known Lexington residents, Fred and Lois Flege. We bonded over that tree. They took to us and we to them and they became like our family.

We lived on that street and under that tree, with the Flege’s as our neighbors for many years. The tree developed dead limbs that we had to prune but we could bear to do no more than that. It was an important touchstone for us and for the Flege’s.

Shortly after we sold our house, the new owner took down the big tree. It had become dangerous. That tree will forever be a part of our memories of our early life in Lexington with our beloved neighbors, the Flege’s.

Years later, we moved back to Morehead and one day, we found a bur oak acorn in our front yard. There are no bur oak trees that we know of in this part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. We planted it. Maybe someday, long after we are gone, there will be another majestic bur oak tree in what used to be our yard.

One of our best memories will always be the big bur oak tree standing in the middle of Lexington.

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There was this tree…

For me, it was the pungent sweet fragrance of ripe apples. The bees. The creek below. The shady relief from hot summer sun. The music. The people strolling by. Being up high.

Have you ever in an instant been transported to something from your childhood that you had long since forgotten, but now that you are reminded, it’s the first time you ever thought of it as such a bedrock of your early youth, a source of wonder, fun, solace and even mischief?

You never know what you’re going to hear when you leave your car radio on so that it fires up when you turn the ignition key. On this day it was the daily and superb public radio talk show “On Point” on WEKU and the comment of a guest, geobiologist and author Hope Jahren: “So many people have a special tree from their childhood; some tree that they remember being in their lives.”

Boom!

There I was as a boy, reclining in a crook of the branches of one of the apple trees along the creek next to our home in Morehead, Kentucky.

There were other apple trees nearby. But this tree was “The One:” its lower branches close enough to the ground to welcome a climb into an aerie scented by apple blossoms and buzzing with bees too focused on the gathering of pollen to be concerned with me.

I didn’t think of it this way back then, but realize now that I loved that tree in the way that I loved my home. It accommodated. It sheltered. There was an abundance of food all around. It was “my place.”

And from my perch, I could people-watch the college students rushing to and from classes on the campus of Morehead State University. Music came from just across the street, drifting through the windows of the then un-air conditioned Baird Music Hall, opened to bring relief from the summer heat. It was a place where friends knew they could find me. It was home base for kick-the-can.

And, it was a rocket launcher.

My dad had come home from work one day with a huge rubber band, saved from office packaging, just for me. He thought I would make something of it. My mom was horrified – quickly realizing just what I would make of it. She was right. Threaded through its looped ends stretched around two branches forming a fork, and loaded with an apple plucked from nearby, that innocent office supply paired with the strong branches of my apple tree accomplice was transformed into a most excellent and quite powerful sling-shot.

You don’t think about the big picture when you’re 10 years old. You live in the moment. So, I could not have foreseen that my apple launcher would send its payload sailing all the way across University Boulevard, coming down with a splat in the middle of a tennis court…that was in use at the time.

Fortunately, apple trees also provide good cover.

Now that I’ve been reminded, I really miss that tree. It’s gone now. “They put up a parking lot.” You know how that goes.

The “On Point” conversation that inspired this essay was about life, love and coming of age as a scientist. I’m sure they had no idea they would inspire the reminiscence of a budding, apple-launching tree-hugger.