New England states are known for stunning displays of fall color. My husband and I crossed the country by train one year so we could enjoy the spectacular (and fleeting) beauty.
We also had the good sense to plant our own fall color in the strip of land between the street and the sidewalk. Though there were four beautiful trees growing in the back yard when we bought our house in 1996, we didn’t have a single tree out front.
We planted two that first year, and have since planted a couple more. The Magnolia shows off in early spring with huge, snowy-white flowers but the fall belongs to the splendid Chinese Pistache.
The City of San Jose requires a permit before planting a tree in the sidewalk strip, the space between the sidewalk and the street. They provide a list of “approved” street trees. Approved trees must have non-invasive roots, non-staining fruit and other good-neighbor qualities. In the past, neighboring streets sported Liquidambar trees. They’re pretty but a nuisance when planted curbside. Invasive roots lift the sidewalks, causing myriad tripping hazards, and the seed pods are hard enough to twist an ankle when stepped on. I remember getting them caught in the wheels of the boys’ s stroller and later in the undercarriage of scooters. One by one, homeowners removed the Liquidambar, leaving neighborhoods bereft of trees.
A few years back the trend reversed, and once again families are planting trees.
Planting a tree is an act of hope and optimism. It also says “I’m here to stay!” My family moved a lot when I was a child, and I moved even more during college and my early working career. The same was true for my husband. Planting a tree outside our front window said “we plan to stay awhile.”
Now and again my husband grumbles that our tree is not as tall or as full as the one across the street. I immediately come to our trees’ defense and assure him that it’s just fine. BK (before kids) we used to measure the tree’s height each year. We settled into life raising two boys, and measured their growth each year instead.
Now we have three strapping teenagers (two boys and one tree) and all three are taller than me. The colors of fall, and our beautiful tree, are an introspective time to reflect.