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Silver Threads: Summertime II: Cherish our oaks

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

When my husband and I visited Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons about 30 years ago, we wound up our trip in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  And as I bought a hat in one of the shops there, the salesman asked how I liked the town.

“It’s great,” I told him, “but when the sun gets this low, it’s almost blinding out on the streets.”

“Well, we happen to love our Big Sky,” he said, rather nettled, and I gave back: “And we love the big oak trees that shade us.”

If you read the Silver Threads of a couple of weeks ago, you may remember that I was unhappy with the hot July weather here. But since then — during a trip to San Diego and environs — I discovered that unless you’re planning to join your grandnephew in surfing the Pacific, New Orleans is a much better place in which to beat the heat.

Must be those big ole oak trees — and the cypresses, the magnolias, the crepe myrtles. Thank goodness for them, all missing in Southern California. What would the poet Joyce Kilmer have thought? He wrote in 1907 the following lines, which were memorized by me almost 75 years ago in grade school:

“I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree. /
“A tree whose hungry mouth is prest / Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;/
“A tree that looks at God all day,/And lifts her leafy arms to pray;/
“A tree that may in summer wear/A nest of robins in her hair;/
“Upon whose bosom snow has lain;/Who intimately lives with rain./
“Poems are made by fools like me,/But only God can make a tree.”

I was much younger when I last spent time in a desert, and that’s probably the key to my recent discomfort. I did notice that I’d been eating delicious codfish and avocado tacos for almost a week before catching even a glimpse of another person with white hair. No old folks in the desert? Were they all at home in the air conditioning? On trips to New Orleans? Had they given up and moved to kindlier climes when they hit 65 and retired?

When I got home and had spent some time gazing lovingly at the thick line of trees along a canal separating our house from a golf course, I Googled “why does climate differ in different states of the U.S.” and found that — duh! — it has a lot to do with proximity to the equator, which in the case of New Orleans and San Diego is about the same. Then there was some complicated info about air and ocean currents, teutonic plates, El Nino and La Nina, etc. Stuff Margaret Orr might understand.

Remembering that I’ve planned a trip to Sedona, Arizona, for next year, I Googled that town. I’ve been to Phoenix among other southwestern locales, and wasn’t feeling optimistic about the landscape — it’s very close to San Diego. But a Sedona website offered the information that there’s an Oak Creek Canyon nearby. Hmmm, trees!

And I may not need them after all. The trip is scheduled for February, highs will be in the low 60s, and a friend and I will be attending a film festival. We’ll be in the dark and maybe one of the movies will be shot in some woods.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]