Writing in the time of COVID-19: Day Thirty-Four

I’m thinking about trees. Appropriate for Earth Day + one. Appropriate also for the days leading up to ‘Ōhi’a Lehua Day this Saturday.

I think about trees every day, all day. I talk about trees every day, all day. My job is to think and talk about trees all day, five days a week. In particular, ‘ōhi’a trees, Hawaii’s most abundant native tree in the forest that’s being attacked by two different fungi.

Yesterday, after thinking about and talking about ‘ōhi’a trees all day, I closed my laptop and wandered outside. Lulu tagged along, a sprightly step in her 12- or 13- or 14-year old body. She may sleep most of the day, but when it comes time for a walk or an outing, she “puppies up.”

Eric was on the property somewhere. “Find Papa,” I told Lulu.

She went right to him. Whether she used her powers of scent detection or had watched as he headed out with his latest toy, I mean, power tool, I’m not sure. Whatever skill she employed, she led me right to Eric where he stood, his electric chainsaw in hand.

In Mary Oliver’s poem, When I Am Among the Trees, she writes:

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

When we moved onto this property 15 years ago, we started planting trees even before our house was built. Most we got free from various Arbor Days that we attended. It was pouring rain on one such Arbor Day, and the turnout was poor, so when I arrived, the organizers loaded up my truck. I think I hauled home two dozen trees that day. It was a good rainy day.

HalaMost all trees we’ve planted are natives, too. Kukui. Kou. Milo. Ulu. Hala. Noni. Kamani. Recently, ‘ōhi’a. But we also have a lime and mango.

I counted 44 trees that we’ve planted. That doesn’t include the bananas, because, technically, they’re not trees. That doesn’t include the numerous palm trees we’ve planted. Nor the three clusters each of three that were on the property when we bought it.

ulu fruitThe ulu, breadfruit, has young fruit. The kukui has dainty flowers. The puakenikeni and plumeria are flush with fragrant flowers. But I’m worried about the mango. The tree is nice and big, but it hasn’t put out any new leaf growth and no flowers. I’m afraid our rather wet winter might mean we won’t have fruit this year. That, or it’ll be a super late season.

Most trees we planted were pretty scrawny—two or three feet tall and skinny as a yard stick. Now our trees are pushing twenty to thirty feet in height, some with canopies 30 feet across. They’re big enough that they need trimming. Hence, the chainsaw. They’re also big enough that they throw swaths of shade, and we can wander among them.

Mary Oliver’s poem continues:

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

I think there’s another way to say this is: Just be you.

I have 44 reminders to just be me all around me, and that doesn’t count another ‘ōhi’a and two Pokulakalaka, Kauai’s only endemic tree, in pots waiting to be planted.

Four new cases were added to our statewide COVID-19 tally of 596. Kauai remains at 21 cases.

Be well.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Joan McCauley says:

    Kim, what is the difference between native and endemic trees? You said most of your trees are native and the Pokulakalaka is Hawai’i’s only endemic tree.


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Good question, Joan. A native plant or animal is one that occurs in an area naturally; that is, it was not introduced to an area by humans. Pukulakalaka is endemic to Kauai, meaning it is found here and nowhere else in the world. Because of Hawaii’s isolation, we have a crazy amount of endemic species, some endemic to the island chain as a whole; others endemic to a single island.


      1. Joan says:

        Mahalo! So…is an endemic species also a native? Or might it have been brought in but is now only found in the one place?


      2. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

        For that to happen the plant or animal would have arrived here, adapted in some way to its new environment, evolving into a new species that is found here and nowhere else.


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