COFFEEBERRY AND ELDERBERRY

It’s 4:10 AM; I might as well get out of bed.  I don’t usually have trouble sleeping so mild insomnia is not unwelcome.  Moreover, it’s my last day of being in my 50’s so I better milk it. A splash of milk sloshes coffee over the rim of a cup, first of the day.  Fuel in hand, I drift to the computer.

The LSG newsletter features the designer Loretta Gargan.  As the focus of her design, she is using one of California’s glories, the coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia.  She calls the oak a “model of sustainability,” mentioning the 5,000 insect species that thrive in the live oak community, as well as “more than 100 species of birds during the breeding season.” Prevalent in the community are plants such as California sagebrush, ferns, monkey flower, coffeeberry, and elderberry.

Coincidentally, last night I listened to a 2005 broadcast of Forum with Michael Krasny in which the guest, William Bryant Logan, talked about his book, Oak: The Frame of Civilization. Fascinating facts fell like acorns.  Depending on who’s counting, there are from 250 to 600 species of oaks.  Oaks thrive in habitats from desert to swamp, sea level to 4,000 meters. Logan’s thesis is that civilization advanced as it did thanks in no small measure to oaks and their byproducts; nutrition from acorns, wood for multiple purposes, ink for manuscripts, etc.  The council groves were groves of oaks, where the sacred was summoned.  “Druid” means one who knows the oak.

For dating things, an oak is more accurate than carbon dating, its rings so expressive that a dendrologist can tell not only what year but often in what season the tree was cut down.  The history oaks tell is vast by human standards.   The oldest trees in Denmark, in Lithuania, in the Czech Republic, in Bulgaria and Belgium are all oaks over a thousand years old.

Now it’s dawn, this particular day.  I’m on my second cup of coffee. There’s a swaying reflection on the side of my screen, a cluster of balloons tied to the pine left over from the birthday bash catching the gray light.  All sag except the gold mylar with “Happy Birthday” printed on it.  Aren’t mylar balloons noxious in some way I can’t quite remember?  And those cards that play music when you open them.  Ugh.  Cut it out, everybody!  Let’s lower, not raise, the trash quotient.  We are not amused.

Well, maybe a little. A sock puppet that drones when you open the card, “You were born, long ago, long ago, long ago,” made me laugh.

Cut it out anyway.

Long ago.  Not compared to Angel Oak in South Carolina, which is over 1,500 years old.  Life is short.  All those tedious folk who said so, they were right all along.

My friend Bill, who turned 75 earlier this year, said lately he often wakes in the morning with this line from Psalm 118 going through his head: This is the day which the Lord hath made,/ We will be glad and rejoice in it.

Beats a droning sock puppet any day.

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