a familiar shape, or what’s that doing here?

scheduleSeptember 1, 2021

I spent my childhood running around the valleys of Arizona, able to see mountains in what felt like every direction. Along with mountains, though, were saguaro. Trees have a hard time with the desert there and so in memory, they were entirely replaced with the sight of these cacti that reached all the way up to the heavens.

Besides their height, however, what I remember most vividly was the way their arms grew up. There was no energy wasted on growing out before curving up. No, they started to reach for the sky as soon as you noticed there was an arm there at all.

So it was with a huge amount of surprise that I saw this tree in Ayrshire. It was such a familiar shape and yet, it is a wholly different thing altogether. My education in trees here in Great Britain is still in its early stages (I’m still reading Roger Deakin’s amazing book, Wildwood1). In recent weeks I’ve learned to confidently identify rowan, common lime, hawthorn.

But this tree, the one in the photo, brought on a strange nostalgia. It was like seeing an old acquaintance and wondering how both of us had got so old but knowing that beyond a memory, there just isn’t a true connection there anymore. It’s been over 20 years since a saguaro was a common sight for me. In that time, I’ve grown up. I got married, I had kids and we moved across an ocean to a place that feels more like home than anywhere I could imagine.

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