Category Archives: Naturaleza
When I was a youngster, I couldn’t wait to get free of the small town I grew up in. I wanted the farther horizons, to see the “big city” for myself. In college I loved traveling to New York City with its peacock attitude and flashy lights, but quickly realized I had no desire to live in a big city.
I have found myself living in metroplexes and cities of a 100,000 as an adult and while I wouldn’t mind living in Fort Worth again, I am content living in the country. The solitude and tranquility of country living is a welcome balm to the busyness of life and the hustle and bustle of the workplace. You might say the country is my retreat.
The most enticing joys of country living are the wonderful neighbors that drop by unexpectedly. One lovely fall afternoon, a flock of wild turkeys promenaded through the backyard, stalked by our cat, who couldn’t resist the temptation, but was no match for the majestic birds.
Another day, investigating a noise at the back door, we encountered a badger, one of our more reclusive neighbors. He rooted through a sumptuous feast of wet garbage, cantaloupe, and watermelon rinds.
The ubiquitous coyote has loped through our front yard, along with the occasional cougar. While I delighted in the nightly coyote symphonies, having a cougar run through the yard was a bit unsettling. More so, when we’ve gone out at night to rescue what we thought was our treed cat, only to have the cougar jump out of the tree with a thwack and low growl and flee into the night.
But our most impressive and regal neighbor was a red fox who stopped by one pleasant afternoon for a lengthy chat. My husband and I were enjoying the cool in lawn chairs when Mr. Fox strolled around the corner of the carport and stopped to look us over, not twenty feet away.
We held our breath, frozen in our chairs, then spoke gently. The fox pricked his ears and dropped to a lounging position on the tawny grass (We’re in West Texas. Even in the spring, the grass isn’t green, but a khaki brown.) For twenty minutes the fox watched us, listening intently to our low and one-sided conversation with him. Then he rose and resumed his regular routine, trotting off in a leisurely manner.
A rose by any other name might still smell as sweet, but a tree by definition finds its uniqueness in leaf and branch. The names of trees help us build a visual picture that adds to reading enjoyment. Pine evokes a sense of mountain grandeur or the spicy tang associated with winter and Christmas. Oak treats us to steadfastness and the hope of growth from small beginnings.
Trees have always fascinated me and the more varied and different, the better I like them. I prefer the purple of the Japanese maple over the dark green of a mulberry. The orchid-like blossoms of the desert willow hold more fascination than the waxy blooms of the magnolia. Mesquite trees with their feathery fronds, yellow fuzzy blossoms and contrasting dark trunks and yellow green foliage seem otherworldly.
But my all time favorite tree for looking like its from another planet is the ceibo tree of Ecuador. Most folks know the ceibo as the kapok or silk tree due to the frothy silk seedpods. Ceibos are uniquely designed for dry, waterless climates. Deep green trunks and branches provide the necessary photosynthesis for seed production, and the tree’s life cycle creates the seeds before the leaves. Hollow trunks conserve water usage, streamlining the necessary nutrients directly into seed production.
Ceibos have weird, twisted branches, which often end up resembling people—provided you have a bit of imagination. The barren branches have no leaves or relatively few leaves until the end of the cycle. When everything else is putting forth new leaves, the ceibo stands stark and bare.
I did some research on the ceibo trees and discovered something unique to Ecuador. All the pictures of other ceibos showed waxy, red blossoms. Our ceibos never had red leaf-like blooms. Every year I would watch our ceibos transition from barren to small white blooms, to hairy branches with moss-like trailers, then the seedpods. At the end, if we’d had some moisture small leaves would appear, but more often than not, this part of the cycle was skipped. Other ceibos seems to lack the moss—at least I never saw a picture of one outside of Ecuador.
For me, the ceibos were odd—more fitting of plant life on some science fiction world than a native of planet Earth. In the dry and dusty terrain of Manabí province, the ceibos were often the greenest things around. We became accustomed to barren, leafless bushes with vivid purple or red blooms clustered around the knees of the towering ceibos. In an otherwise brown landscape the green trunks of the ceibos stood out, the dandelion silk of the seedpods floating on the wind like snowflakes, the scraggly grey “hair” draped across branches like tattered scarves.
For a science fiction writer like myself, the ceibos became my touchstone between fantasy and reality, a fixed point in time and space where imagination crossed with the real world. I still miss them.