I’m sending out this post on the summer solstice. This is the sun’s day to shine!
Well, maybe not much in southeast Minneapolis, but still, this is the day of the year with the most daylight hours and the fewest nighttime hours.
I decided to mark the occasion by taking a summer solstice portrait of my bur oak branch. I’ve been following a bur oak branch on the University of Minnesota campus since last winter. I recorded it again in late April with its bulging buds.
This time I almost couldn’t find my branch. That ho-hum, ordinary process called spring growth had completely transformed it.
I was looking forward to the buds becoming leaves, but I hadn’t thought about the branch itself growing. If you start looking into the question of how trees grow, you very quickly run into words you’ve never heard of before. My branch has tissue at its tip called meristem, and that’s where the cells rapidly divide into a new stem or a new leaf. Those cells were very busy dividing in the two months I didn’t visit the tree.
A closer look at one of those new leaves:
Despite the cloudy weather this spring, my oak branch has been in full photosynthetic gear during the day. At night the whole tree shifts gear, but it’s still busy. My friend, Joyce Sidman, wrote a poem about how busy oak trees are at night. Tonight — the shortest night of the year — they will have even less time to finish their chores. With her permission, here is her lovely poem.
Oak After Dark
As nighttime rustles at my knee,
I stand in silent gravity
and quietly continue chores
of feeding leaves and sealing pores.
While beetles whisper in my bark,
while warblers roost in branches dark,
I stretch my roots into the hill
and slowly, slowly drink my fill.
A thousand crickets scream my name,
yet I remain the same, the same.
I do not rest, I do not sleep,
and all my promises I keep:
to stand while all the seasons fly,
to anchor earth,
to touch the sky.
Here’s the bur oak tree in all its glory on the first day of summer:
And the charming streetlight at Eddy Hall, shining on all that nighttime activity: