For the birds

Oak

I inherited two pin oak trees when I bought my home. While these would be majestic beauties in most settings, outside my home, in the middle of the city, my oaks were planted in the wrong place, and are located under power lines, forever destined to be pruned away from the utilities by the city’s arborists. I wanted to get rid of them upon moving in, saying they were misshapen, that the topped trees look terrible and I could plant some sun loving beauties in their place. Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate how much these oaks mean to my surrounding environment, and I’ve grown attached to them.

The oaks make my bedroom feel like I sleep in a treehouse, looking out into the green canopy, in the years the arborists allow the trees to regain some height. The neighborhood kids stop and sit under the oaks to relax and enjoy the cover overhead. The trees keep my house cool in the summertime, and the leaves flutter and sway, creating endless shadows and patterns in the light. The leaves that shed for months on end feed my urban soil, improving its quality, slowly but surely.

The past few years I’ve noticed the oaks are home to so many insects and birds, feeding the neighborhood wildlife. My trees squawk with birds every year in a feeding frenzy when the acorns arrive. I find tons of unfamiliar insects all over the trees, chomping away at the stems and leaves, yet the oaks remain unscathed. I’ve learned that oaks are hosts to more caterpillars than any other tree, 532 species, feeding birds in the landscape. As our world becomes ever more urban, the tree canopy's cooling effect on urban heat islands is critical as well. Oaks are good for all of us. There’s an oak for every type of landscape, even my misshapen, ill placed ones outside my front door.

Naomi Goodman

Seattle, WA 98107