As a New Yorker, I imagine you could easily list the best things within a few blocks your home: the closest deli, Thai restaurant, drop-off laundry location, bar, and the best subway car for your preferred exit.
But here’s a question that may stump you. Can you tell me about your closest tree?
Take a Good Long Look
Today I invite you to take a careful, considered look at the tree nearest to your home. If, like me, you could easily list the best neighborhood places to eat, drink, and shop, but drew a blank when thinking of your closest tree, this could prove to be a worthwhile experiment.
Even if you are one of the lucky ones with vast arboreal knowledge, I ask that you also play along. You may see something new or unexpected.
The First Meeting
I invite you walk to up to your closest tree and spend at least five minutes examining it. Imagine you must describe the tree to a sketch artist. What would you say?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How tall is it?
- What sort of shape does it make overall?
- If you had to hazard a guess, does it look like a younger or older tree?
- What are the shapes of the branches? Wide? Low? Crooked? Spindly?
- How would you describe the bark? Smooth, speckled, furrowed?
- If there are leaves, what are the shapes of the leaves? What color? Do the leaves grow opposite of each other or do they alternate?
- Is there fruit on the tree? Have blossoms or nuts fallen from it?
- Do you think anything lives in it?
- Do you know the type of tree it is? If not, are you curious?
Notice Your Neighbor in the Future
When you really look at the tree it may feel like meeting a neighbor for the first time: you are not sure how the interaction will go, you may feel a little awkward, but afterwards, it’s easier to say hello. Now that you’ve “met” the tree, you may find it easier to notice it in the future. You may take note if its branches are bare in winter, its first buds and leaves in spring, and the color of its leaves in fall. This neighbor tree offers you a daily opportunity to notice change.
If you know the species of your neighbor tree, that’s great. But – this is important – you don’t have to know the name of something to really notice it. If your curiosity is piqued and you want to identify the tree, learn more with Leslie Day’s helpful guide to the street trees of New York City.
Places in NYC to Notice Trees
I recommend you start with the closest tree to your apartment. If you want to expand the experiment, here are a few of my favorite places to notice and compare trees:
- Inwood Hill Park
- The Ravine in Prospect Park
- Greenwood Cemetery
- The Ramble in Central Park
Please let me know how your meeting goes in the comments below. I’m curious.