Thursday, June 24, 2010

The World's 10 Most Magnificent Trees

Our Tree that Owns Itself didn't make the world's ten most magnificent trees list, but it did get on the bonus list. And what incredible trees these are - a cutting started in 288 BC from the original fig tree under which the Buddha became enlightened in the 6th century and which may take a total of 3000 years to be fully grown, the Methuselah tree documented to be 4,838 years old, Utah's quaking aspen with a colony covering 107 acres, an 80,000 year old organism! This could be a destination list were it not that the location of some of the trees is not given for their own security. Seems that a scientist cut down another 5000 year old Methuselah tree just to determine its age, and a drunk Libyan driver mowed down the Tenere tree, a sole desert survivor when the Saharan desert dried up.

Patty and I stopped by the Monterrey Lone Cypress in 1977 when she was a cold war warrior.

She's probably reading this and thinking, "I was that skinny once?!"

Sixteen years later, in 1993, a buddy and I went cross country skiing into the sequoias looking for the General Sherman tree, the world's largest tree at 6000 pounds and 220 years old.

Jonathan was dwarfed next to the roots of one of these big guys fallen over.

We had to leave the trail to find the General and at one point Jonathan stopped in a mountain meadow to have his picture taken. As I was putting my camera away, I glanced up to see Jonathan taking off his skiis.

"No-o-o-o, Jonathan, don't take off your skis, you'll... I yelled, just as he sank almost up to his waist. I knew this would happen in deep meadow snow from my own experience sinking a snowmobile at night in the Rockies.

I pulled him out and we skied on, naturally being lost for a while, wondering if those large paw tracks were bear, and finally found the tree named after the general who made Georgia "howl" and then wired Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah".

Two down, eight to go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Tree That Owns Itself

Notwithstanding the heat of an Athens afternoon, our hostess, Jane, was willing to take some cousins to check out the historic houses built during the 1800's. We walked down Dearing Street trying to figure out the Federal, Victorian, Greek Revival, and Italiante style houses, many of them dragged up the hill to Dearing in lieu of tearing them down when the more commercial areas were developed. Good for them! Athens was off the path of Sherman's scorched earth trek to the sea, no reason to have them then succumb to capitalism. I won't bore the reader with photos of the houses - Lord knows I have enough of those from Savannah - as a more famous sight lies at the end of the street where the cobblestones of Finley meet Deering, the tree that owns itself.

It seems this Athenian guy, Colonel William Jackson, deeded the white oak tree to itself in 1832 when he sold off the rest of the property.
For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides.
Don't you wonder what happened here that the Colonel loved the tree this much, maybe something romantic, or was he just peculiar?

The original tree was already at least a century old when it was deeded, growing before any of these houses were built, and in 1942 the tree died from old age, maybe helped along by a storm. The town planted an offspring grown from one of its acorns, cares and advocates for it, and doesn't collect any property taxes. The big guy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has his own Facebook page, YouTube video, and book by the same title.

We like quirky towns.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cousins (Re)united!

I'm not much of a Facebooker but I have to admit it played a role in bringing the Nute cousins and childhood playmates to Athens, Georgia last weekend for the first gathering in about fifty years. Those were different times, when TV was black and white if you had one, families gathered on Sundays, and the kids played outdoors until after dark. Back then, we lived in rural and small town Ohio and Kentucky. Family counted on family, but these days we have scattered across the country, raised our families, had our careers.

Those of us gathering in Georgia were grandchildren of Raymond and Alice, both bluebloods from New England tracing their ancestry back to the Mayflower in 1620 and the Dover Colony in 1631, all spending their lives in New England until Raymond graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the couple left for the Kentucky in about 1918 with my father in tow.

They had five children, one died in infancy, and the remaining four were our parents - Raymond Jr., Jeannette, Donald, and Barbara.

The siblings grew up in Valley Station, Kentucky, a very rural area of Kentucky. The life of a farmer and agricultural agent seemed to suit our grandfather well, but looking at my grandmother's scrapbooks and finery in photos I've wondered whether she didn't miss the society of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Raymond and Alice moved to Lewis County, Kentucky, in the late 1930's, and after the war Raymond, Jr., and Donald returned here, Barbara lived in northern Kentucky, and Jeannette married and settled in northern Ohio. The family of cousins was young, but growing.

Here in this photo, left to right, my brother Ray III, me, and our cousins George and Donald (sons of Jeannette), are already budding around. It was one of these times I put a bush berry up my nose, still a memorable event and probably my brother's idea.

Our father moved the family to northern Ohio close to Jeannette's family in 1950 when Kentucky didn't offer enough post-war job opportunities, but we had frequent family visits to Kentucky. Once the cousins left for colleges we all seemed to lose touch. I was the first to go away in 1960, age 16 - which seemed so old at the time.

Fast forward fifty years, we have reconnected and gathered at the home of Jane and Don Nute, named after his father, and not to be confused with Donald Vasbinder, whose mother Jeannette named him after her brother. It is also home to The Lake Town and Shire Garden Railroad, an amazing Lord of the Rings landscaped and railed back yard that was a hit with all of us, grown ups and kids alike.

Of the four original siblings - Raymond, Jeannette, Donald, and Barbara, only one is still living - Jeannette at age 89 and still sharp and quick at the wit as the family are wont to be. Our mother, Ramona, age 96, who had been married to Raymond was there. Both matriarchs came for the cousins' reunion.

Each of the four siblings had representative offspring - all four of Raymond's kids, including Patty and me, two of Jeannette's three children, one of Donald's two children, and Barbara's only child. And these offspring brought offspring who had more offspring. Cousins were coming out of the woodwork!

Grandchildren of Raymond and Alice, minus two - Alice Jane, daughter of Donald, and George, son of Jeannette:

Children of Raymond, including PatandKathie, in a rare total sibling photo as we are scattered from East to West Coast and in between.

We had an entire day of becoming reacquainted, letting the next two generations get to know each other, soaking in the southern hospitality of Don and Jane, and making plans for next year's gathering -- Alice Jane and George mark your books! We're going to Maryland, heart of the East Coast Civil War battles!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Rest in Peace, Bopeep.

Fierce warrior princess, prize biscuit maker, Kelly's first kitty, sweet snuggly girl.
We'll miss you forever.
Bopeep, 1996? - 2010