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21 June 2000

I missed the solstice. I meant to go out and have a look, but I forgot, and then it was after ten and I'd missed it. Too bad, too. It was a beautiful night: clear, deep blue sky and bright, golden moon... fireflies winking in the late-lingering dusk... ah, well, next year--

If I live eighty years, there will only have been eighty summer solstices. Only eighty summers, eighty winters, eighty springs, eighty autumns... eighty turns around the sun. Of the ones I've lived through to date, how many have I really noticed? How many have I savored? -- How many chances to notice have I got left?

Today I noticed something as I walked to work. There are mature sycamore trees lining the west side of Thayer Street between Charlesfield and East George. That's the side I walk on, and I've noticed the sycamores before. I love the color and texture of their bark. But today, after I crossed Charlesfield, I also noticed that the trunk of the sycamore tree at the corner leans outwards over the street at a very distinct angle. And then I noticed that the next sycamore in line leans inwards. Inwards, over the sidewalk, again, at a significant angle. Curious, I looked up Thayer Street to discover that all the sycamores but that second one lean outwards at exactly the same angle, as if they'd been trained to grow that way.

The leaning of the trees is explicable, I suppose. Thayer Street's west side is lined with tall dormitory buildings. Trees that grow next to buildings grow away from the shadows seeking towards the sunlight. But why does the second one lean towards the buildings?

How old are these trees? Perhaps that tree is a non-conformist-- a rebel that grew up in the sixties, determined to be different. A tree can do a lot of growing in forty years.

Perhaps the tree was moved (Brown University has bags of bucks; they can do things like that) for some reason-- to let equipment pass, or to repair something under the street-- and then, when it was put back, perhaps the workers turned it around.

Or maybe, over the years, the tree got curious about the goings on in the dormitory...

Whatever the reason, I'm glad I noticed the sycamores today.


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