A small one-week feature on what happens when we clean our houses. What bubbles to the surface. What reveals itself to be true. What our junk says about our current state and next steps. What the season does to us.
Our houses aren’t the only houses that get cleaned this time of year. The bigger house—the city—gets cleaned up too. Here in Milan, for the past two weeks or more, crews have been scurrying around the parks pruning trees and bushes. My littlest always asks me: “What are they doing?” And I tell her that in the Spring, the trees need to have their hair cut. She accepts this explanation graciously, and we move on, admiring the stark new shapes that the trees present. I can’t resist photographing them. And so, here is one “BEFORE” picture (actually, it’s a tree that didn’t get pruned), followed by several “AFTER” images:
These are all sycamores—platani, in Italian. My favorite. I love their mottled, army-camouflage trunks and their white, bleached-bone branches. Trimmed like this, they have a post-apocolyptic look, but I adore it. They are unburdened by dead dry growth, ready for new. Lanky, angular and awkward like teenagers. All future. No past.
Whenever I look at them, I feel energized, refreshed. They are the antidote to my change-of-season ills. If they can do it—confront a new growing season, shed their dead weight, start again, renew themselves, have energy enough for everyone that sees them—so can I! I remember a poem that I loved in college, written by one of my favorite American poets:
I must tell you
this young tree
whose round and firm trunk
between the wet
pavement and the gutter
is trickling) rises
into the air with
thrust half its height-
dividing and waning
young branches on
hung with cocoons
till nothing is left of it
hornlike at the top
—William Carlos Williams
The trees around Lucca are being cut as well. I have taken the same photos as you – amazing. I wonder sometimes how they recover – they looked so chopped. I wish they would spend more time around here cutting the ivy that grows all over the trees. It eventually kills the trees. I don’t understand why this is not managed better. Lovely poem. I know the Italian name and I have heard them called Plane trees, but I didn’t know they were sycamore trees.
Beautiful post. Complimenti.
Thanks Neal. How’s your shop doing? I’m interested in what you guys are trying to do…I saw some wool jewelry on line the other day (Italian) that made me think of you…
They look so otherworldly, all chopped up like that; hard to believe they will soon become beautiful again. I’ve been thinking of trees a lot lately too… my favorites are madrone, birch, maple… the birches are so beautiful around here.
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