Friday, March 21, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 21 - One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

Unfortunately, we don't have a picture of our crabapple tree, but this is exactly what it looked like!
       It's spring!  A fond spring memory I have is the crabapple tree that stood regally outside my bedroom window when I was a kid.  By April it would be in full and delicate bloom, filling up my view.  I know my dad didn't love that tree, though.  It dropped hard crabapples all over the lawn, and the branches, thick and knotty, made it difficult to mow around.  It also attracted bees.  They would create a low hum around the whole tree, dipping in and out of the blossoms.  One year, they managed to build a huge hive in the branches, creating a mowing hazard.  I remember watching while Dad and a neighbor delicately cut it down and Dad walking gingerly down to the woods to discard it.  Sadly, the crabapple was cut down eventually.  I really did miss it when it was gone. 

     I've always loved trees. I won a tree from a drawing contest in 1978.  You had to draw your favorite tree - I sure wish I still had that drawing.

Tree won from drawing contest:
I loved to climb trees and read under trees.  I've already written about how I would play Laura Ingalls Wilder by tying branches around a copse of trees, pretending it was a log cabin.  I'm also pretty sure I saw a UFO in the woods when I was a kid, but that's another blog post! ;-) The woods were my haven.  Fall is my favorite time of year because of the brilliant-colored leaves.  My dream house was always one that had a deck in the woods, and when we moved to Lebanon, that's what we found.  I love the birds, squirrels, and tree frogs that live in the woods.  I'm also drawn to art and photography of trees, and they're hanging on our walls.  I love books with trees, too.  One of my favorite middle grade novels is Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan, and of course, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

             We always take pictures out on the deck because of the trees in the background!

           Looking forward to seeing this - our weeping cherry, pear, and magnolia blooming!

Apparently, my daughter inherited the tree thing, too.  Here she is in 1995:


By Robert Frost 1874–1963 Robert Frost
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
Share this text ...?

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost (1969)


  1. So many things I love in one post - Frost, Paterson, beautiful trees. Gorgeous.

    1. I like how you grouped those words - Frost, Paterson, beautiful trees. They go together, don't they?!

  2. Ah, that lovely Frost poem. I was a great climber of trees, too - I miss those days!

  3. Frost's poem is gorgeous. But what I loved the most is the photo of your daughter back in 1995. She's so precious up in that tree! (I'm assuming this is your daughter heading off to college this fall. Wow!)

    1. The picture is actually of my oldest daughter, Libby, who is a junior at Miami U. :-)

  4. I loved climbing trees too, Holly, & had a special maple in my grandparent's back yard. I love hearing all about your trees, and that you finally came back home to more as an adult! I linked to you in my post today. Be sure to check it out with other connections!

    1. Thank you so much for linking to my blog on your post! I love that you did that. I've enjoyed being part of this community so much. Love the connections!

  5. I loved reading this post, Holly - and seeing the photos of "your trees" in various seasons. Thank you for including the Frost poem - I didn't know this poem but loved reading it. My favorite line is "I'd like to get away from earth awhile. And then come back to it and begin over." Not sure if you know the picture book by Barbara Reid called "Picture a Tree" - but your post reminded me of this book. Thanks for the wonderful images and connections.

    1. I love that line, too! I don't know that picture book. I'll check it out! You mentioning that book makes me think of The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever.

  6. All your tree photos are lovely, Holly. We are true kindred spirits in our love of trees. I had many favorite climbing trees, and clearly remember the maple tree I sat under when I read Charlotte's Web for the first time. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh, Charlotte's Web - we're definitely kindred spirits because that's my favorite children's book of all time!