“as an ook cometh of a litel spir”

It seems appropriate, on a wedding anniversary, to wonder about the future years as much as to remember the ones that have already accumulated. And so I was glad to walk down to the lower trail and dig up two tiny oak seedlings I saw on a walk last week. They’re not native oaks, Quercus garryana, though this time last year I planted some Garry oak acorns gathered at Rithet’s Bog in Victoria where almost 50 years ago I used to ride my horse. One of those acorns germinated and I’ve been caring for the tiny tree since spring.

little garry oak

The seedlings I saw last week are the same species (I think) as an oak I found nearby several years ago and brought home to coddle in a pot until it was big enough to plant out, which I did this summer. It’s about three feet tall, with spring-green leaves. They don’t turn red in fall but more a tawny or russety colour. So I suspect the oak might be Quercus robur, the common or English oak. Later, when it produces acorns, I’ll be able to see if the acorns are held by long stalks (hence, “pendunculate”, which gives this oak another of its common names). There’s a summer cabin down by Sakinaw Lake, near the trail we walk to Haskins Creek to see the coho salmon spawn in late November, and there are often oak leaves on the trail in fall when we pass the cabin. So I think the owners must have planted an oak. And they’ve been there, in summers, for many decades, so the tree could well be a big one by now. I know that Steller’s jays are good dispensers of Garry oak acorns and we have lots of jays around us. Many Douglas squirrels too, which hoard and disperse every kind of seed, acorns included.

I brought the seedlings home and planted them in pots.

new oak

And now remember Chaucer, from Troilus and Criseyde, “as an ook cometh of a litel spir”. With the years I have left, I don’t expect to see them as stately trees. Maybe I’ll never know what species they are. But it seems an act of hope to plant them. To care for them. And maybe to have them become part of the story that is constantly evolving on this land I’ve belonged to since 1980 when we first walked up to a little bluff with a real estate agent and saw the flattened moss where the deer lie down. There were no oaks then. But in ten years? Or fifty? Maybe four trees for my grandchildren to climb, to lie under in shade, to rake leaves from the base in fall and think about the woman who planted them.

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