Dear Baby Tree,
Welcome to the world. You have a big name to grow into; you are Quercus agrifolia, you are oak. Welcome to this very hillside, where your ancestors have resided for thousands of years, overlooking a changing bay. You are the oak of the oak woodland, and unlike many of your neighbors, you get the esteemed title, “native.” You don’t need to know what an ecosystem is, you don’t need to know anything at all. By growing a nice, deep taproot like I know you will, you create and become part of a home, an ecos. Here on this hillside you grow among annual grasses, Monterey pines, coyote bush, a stray cat, hawks, deer, robins, humans. But you will grow to be an engineer, a creator, locking soil and terrain into place; your domain spreading beyond your sprawling canopy.
Baby oak tree, you have big shoes to fill. The cities and commerce that lie below you are bursting with life, but the people there are frantic, confused, lost. How to live on the planet has become a question we deal with every day. I see a multi-colored sunset, beautiful in its colors and chemicals. I hear highways and jets. I see city lights begin to turn on. I walk through a swirl of creation and destruction every day; I form part of this swirl; I see and feel change so fast and so big, everywhere. I walk through my own world of love and learning, as I work everyday to grasp this home in which I live, and who I am within it – as a human, animal, dreamer, lover.
Baby oak tree, I will always return here to see how far you’ve grown. You feel the soil and the air and the neighbors better than I ever will, without knowing a thing, just by standing still. You belong here, and yet you will experience the same swirl of change in your lifetime that I will. I will try to grow a taproot like yours so that I might begin to feel and act wisely in this web of a place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Your resilience inspires me; the oaks have a lot to teach the world about belonging in and tending to a place.
Baby oak tree, grow slow and steady and strong, proving that the pace of the humans below is not the only life rhythm. Grow because you are part of a historical legacy of symbiosis, biodiversity, and tenure. I will return to check on you and your hill, because as time goes on, I know I’ll be needing a reminder of what it is that I dream of, of how I should inhabit this planet, a reminder of the inspiration that nourishes my roots and shoots. Sitting on the dirt, watching pastel sky colors darken into night, I feel myself growing, and baby oak tree, you teach me how to grow everyday. Let’s come to know this soil together.