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November 7, 2012 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Out on a limb

A dim foggy view appropriate for misty eyes searching for a clue.

Surprising to see the great diversity on board here: pining, palming, Southern scenting, and staunchly standing.

Immigrants to the coastal prairie once dominated by native grasses.

Brought their own customs and traditions:

Like a sticky sappiness, sharp pine needling: garb discarded without a thought of the raking hardship their annual dumping creates.

Like their snapping brittleness: an unexpected folding over cars or houses when pushed too hard. Can’t pine for that.

Like the mushy trunks after a freeze: tropical fronds no longer finely waving across palms.

Like the broads with overpowering summer fragrance: reminiscent of  belles strolling under plantation magnolia canopies

Like the draping branches from crown to ground: imitating long-haired beauties sporting acorns as eye candy.

Shoved out those indigenous grasses now only cherished as “heritage groups” in sanctuary zones.

No reservations there.

How kind to let sleeping grasses lie.

(It’s only a weed if grown in the wrong place or in a recreational state.)

Someone’s bothered to take out the trash

One man’s trash is another’s treasure.

One man’s weed is another’s taxable product.

One man’s truth is another’s joke.

A little bit of local amusement.

Branching out, trunks may lean left or right.

It has nothing to do with political agendas.

Trees are slow to embrace change.

Though they do move whichever way the wind blows.

Mostly it has to do with the kid across the street is learning to drive. (one in the front)

Or hurricane force winds catching a crown and giving it a toss. (one in the back)

Didn’t your mother tell you to stand up straight?

But trees are bound to have a thought.

They reach for the sky just like people.

Their lack of uniformity apparently irritating for some.

Kidding right? (No, not yet. Soon these may be big enough for climbing, swings, and tree houses)

So the question is messy?

Homeowners simply uninformed on the correct rules for tree loitering?

The barks’ off.

A shaming letter arrives from the Homeowners’ Association. (From the HOA – just makes your day!)

“Your tree isn’t straight.

Stake a response or prepare to be grilled.”

What exactly is the correct position for a tree to assume? (Should a yoga master be called?)

Has anyone informed the trees they are out of alignment? Defective?

Do the trees even care?

Probably radicals.

Probably determined not to assimilate or get along.

Determined to do things as THEY wish – not trying to fit into norms or Yard Nazi standards.

Not getting with the program.

Free spirits of nature or immigrant troublemakers?

Trees of the leaning variety have their defenders:

After all, they are good citizens and are growing in place trying to make a new life. Trying to improve the neighborhood.

Some whisper: “They were dragged here without being asked. How fair is it to criticize them?”

Purists of nature sing their praises, “It’s natural! They are trees! Let them grow free!”

Realtors, clutching contracts and comparables, urge ” Uniqueness is desirable. Value added!”

Oh, who’s got time to battle those picky? Just pound in a stick and make-believe.

Some are too busy – just don’t need the stress.

Yeah. that’ll make them happy – and they will leave us alone!

Easier to play make-believe than tell the emperor he’s got no clothes?

Oh, that would be too easy.

Barking up the wrong tree, really.

Too much support makes things weak and dependent.

Giving showy false support is not good for growth either – even the smallest cord can strangle or become in-grown.

And there’s the danger of tripping or entanglements in the dark.

(Oh, so not talking about people here. Trees, remember?)

Besides it’s not right to insist all conform and leave their heritage on the grounds!

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods.  But he cannot save them from fools.  (John Muir)

Sometimes ya’ gotta grow a stand,

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Some Great Tree Quotes: 

A tree never hits an automobile except in self-defense.  (American Proverb)

We all travel the milky way together, trees and men… trees are travellers, in the ordinary sense.  They make journeys, not very extensive ones, it is true:  but our own little comes and goes are only little more than tree-wavings – many of them not so much.  (John Muir, Scribner’s Monthly, November 1878)

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The next best time is now.  (Chinese Proverb)

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.  (Cree Indian Proverb)

HEY! Read Michael Ghirardi’s comments about his family’s traveling Ghirardi Compton Oak tree. (in comments section)

Grown accustomed to your shape.
Grown accustomed to your style.
Our fair lady.


  1. Ally Bean / Nov 7 2012 4:07 pm

    So this is a problem, eh? Leaning trees. Wow. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that no one from our HOA sees this post and gets any ideas. The trees around here are all quite the leaners– with ours, in particular, leading the way.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 7 2012 5:27 pm

      We’re worried – the dog’s a leaner, too – we’ll just keep her walking around so nobody knows…Thanks for leaning over to chat


  2. RAB / Nov 7 2012 4:14 pm

    LOVE the “customs and traditions” sequence. It deserves to become a song.
    Even here in New England, where our tall tall trees become liabilities in a storm (they’re probably just not the “right height”!), we celebrate their diversity and idiosyncrasies. If we weren’t having snow right now I’d go out and hug one of “my” trees. Thanks for this post, and keep the faith!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 7 2012 5:32 pm

      You have gorgeous trees there. Snow? (they are probably asleep now wrapped up in white blankets).
      The ones here are waving in the sun – leaf on!
      Thanks for sticking in a comment


  3. robstroud / Nov 7 2012 6:41 pm

    Wonderful column, as always. Living in the forest (even one dominated by Douglas Fir) there is so much variety between the way trees grow, every long walk is an adventure. Our Madronas are particularly delightful to behold.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 7 2012 8:00 pm

      Oh, you have big forests there – quite lovely and a joy to wander. (unfair!) Thanks for hiking this way!


  4. notesfromrumbleycottage / Nov 7 2012 6:42 pm

    I would rather have trees that are a little odd but, then again, I have yet to keep anything pretty in or out of my house.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 7 2012 8:04 pm

      I can’t find ANY tree that’s not wiggly or crooked or leaning this way or that. They are trees. I suppose we could all put up metal poles and paint them, but it might be hard to put up the Christmas lights. It is pretty silly. Thanks for giggling along


  5. PiedType / Nov 7 2012 6:45 pm

    “pining, palming, Southern scenting, and staunchly standing.” What a poet you are!

    I’m an old-school tree hugger, and I’d have a word or two for that HOA — both of them politically incorrect.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 7 2012 8:11 pm

      Considering the developer planted the tree for the original owners, and it’s looked just like well this for over 8 years…we had to have a little commonsense chat (with recommendations/analysis by a tree expert) – so far everyone is being reasonable. Trees don’t do well being pushed around.
      Thanks for seeing the forest for the trees!


  6. EllaDee / Nov 7 2012 7:39 pm

    Hilarious, and somewhat troubling post. The HOA wiki article spoke volumes by way of underlying motivation… I assume the trees were planted as part of the “purpose of marketing, managing, and selling” but they didn’t bank on non-conformist trees? I think the awry trees add a certain quirkiness which to a potential buyer type (like me) could be enticing, or are they just looking for ‘straighty-one-eighty’ type residents? Don’t answer that… I think I know. Not my kind of neighbourhood. I hate neighbourhoods (& apartment strata’s) which have as fixtures, people with too much time on their hands… better the bendy trees 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 7 2012 8:15 pm

      Considering how long the tree has been here – and the developer did plant it for the original owners – it was odd. Couldn’t be anything to do with the fact that the management company gets a good chunk of money every time they send a letter? My neighbor got one because her tree branches were too low to the ground! (But another neighbor’s tree was hanging lower and didn’t get one…) Lack of commonsense, or someone who finally got their first job, perhaps? So far reason has prevailed. Thanks for swinging through the trees and stopping to chat


  7. Spinster / Nov 7 2012 9:38 pm

    “Your tree isn’t straight.

    Stake a response or prepare to be grilled.”

    People clearly have nothing better to do with their lives, do they. 😐


  8. tonyakerrigan / Nov 7 2012 10:46 pm

    Eenie, meenie, miney, mo…your tree is leaning too far or too low. 🙂


  9. susartandfood / Nov 7 2012 11:47 pm

    I find so much art in the trees, the shadows, the way they bend, their knuckles and joints. Leaning, I would suppose, can also capture the mind. 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 8 2012 11:19 pm

      What a lovely way to express the value of trees. Thanks for placing that on the board.


      • susartandfood / Nov 9 2012 12:41 am

        You are most welcome – such a nice subject to write to.


  10. jmlindy422 / Nov 7 2012 11:47 pm

    The leaning trees of Pisa? I have an apple tree that refused to grow up straight. Hm…is it gay? Can a tree be gay? It certainly makes me happy, leaning toward it’s pollinating pair the way it does.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 8 2012 11:21 pm

      Trees are the strong silent type – do their own thing without comment or worries. It would be great to have an apple tree – sounds like you have a smart one! Thanks for standing with the forest.


  11. jmmcdowell / Nov 8 2012 12:47 am

    If the tree’s well-rooted, leaning shouldn’t be a problem—unless it’s resting on power lines or something like that. Straightening tree of the size shown in your photos would probably result in a lot of them dying or falling onto something or someone in a strong wind.

    I wonder if someone on the HOA board owns the only “tree-straightening service” in the area. 😉


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 8 2012 11:28 pm

      Tree guys said no way to straighten these trees without killing them (sidewalks, curbs, street).
      Past history often shows a friend or family in the business of whatever needs doing…real abuses there and with kickbacks to HOAs across the state.
      Actually we thought the last hurricane blew the tree a little more upright. We’ll just keep the lower limbs trimmed up so they don’t have any room to complain.
      THanks for standing along side trees


  12. Sunshine / Nov 8 2012 4:58 am

    oh, jmlindy422 comment is hilarious! “The leaning trees of Pisa?…can a tree be gay…”
    Phil, you bring out the best in us! 🙂


    • jmlindy422 / Nov 8 2012 5:19 am

      Thanks, Sunshine. I love these posts. I always wonder how it’s going to end.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 8 2012 11:29 pm

      I know it was a gold star comment there! Such fun


  13. notedinnashville / Nov 8 2012 2:24 pm

    HOA’s. (Insert eye roll here.) All I can say is Jeeeeeez!


  14. jannatwrites / Nov 9 2012 2:08 am

    You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t believe crooked trees would be seen as an issue. Nature is imperfect, they need to just let the trees grow if they have strong roots. Our HOA would have a field day because most of our trees are mesquite – those never grow straight!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 9 2012 2:53 am

      Mesquite trees are quite the creative ones! The whole thing about complaining because a tree isn’t straight is just so silly. As long as they stay in the ground and off houses, cars and power lines, live and let live. Thanks for hanging out n the shade to chat.


  15. shoreacres / Nov 9 2012 3:05 pm

    Now, wait just a minute here. I thought we were supposed to be all in for TOLERANCE and DIVERSITY! And GREEN!

    These trees are our sisters and brothers and have the same rights we do. Mess with those trees and I’ll bet they could take the HOA to court for … lessee here… what do they call it….? Oh, yeh. Discrimination!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 9 2012 4:02 pm

      Hmm, the tree should be on firm footing there.
      (Shiver…you’ve never had any dealings with HOAs? Let’s whisper over here….)
      Wonder if any of those people even know about the Ghirardi oak? We had big trees where we used to be…these will be better in 5-10 years depending on rainfall. No wonder we all scrap for that Ghirardi one – even if some say it’s not all that old – it is on the prairie!
      (Oh, part of the prairie east of here is burning from lightning – that’s the haze and sneeze report)
      Thanks for getting treed!


  16. Paprika Furstenburg / Nov 10 2012 4:15 pm

    Somethings in life a better when they are a little off kilter. Good for those trees for being unique. 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 12 2012 2:40 pm

      For a place who says they value creativity, individuality, and want to protect nature, it seems a little odd. THanks for going out on a limb with your comment


  17. Kourtney Heintz / Nov 10 2012 10:33 pm

    The only time leaning trees should be a concern is when they are close enough to take down a power line or could easily tip over on someone. In the first instance, they can be trimmed back, in the second they might need an intervention. But the trees in your pictures are just not Stepford trees. 🙂 Nothing needs to be done. The homeowners might want to move to the desert to be free of trees. 😛


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 12 2012 3:25 pm

      Over-eager new employee who needs to justify job? All our utilities are underground, so no power line issues. Maybe a squirrel complained they had trouble climbing at an angle. (Great. The squirrels have a union?) Thanks for climbing over to chat


  18. Robin / Nov 17 2012 7:27 pm

    So glad I don’t have to deal with an HOA. They’d probably make us cut down the dead trees where the bluebirds and woodpeckers live. I like your leaning trees. The have character. 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 17 2012 10:46 pm

      Still haven’t heard a peep back from them – so I guess they are treed? Thanks for appreciating the beauty of variations


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