Tuesday, June 26, 2012


An average weekday in June, sun setting at 9:00pm, a quiet night at home, waiting for the rice to cool off, waiting for the thunderstorm to break, waiting for Cliff Lee’s first win, just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, ladies…and I make the heart-breaking mistake of delving into the photo archives to look at tree-pictures I never posted.

What happened?

There are just too many trees and not enough time.

Out there on the mean streets, I always end up running into trees that don’t quite fit into my planned posts. 

I mean, I’ve missed a lot of great trees. 

The yellowwood and the black locust?   

Never got around to writing about that deep-ridged bark.  Never got around to describing their brief spell of dangling flowers in mid-spring, though I have loads of pictures.

Honey-suckle and fringe trees?   

Yeah, I missed that boat too…although even their pretty pictures can’t capture the spring breezes that always belied their presence, wafts of honey out of the corner of your eye.

The horse chestnut?  Now, that’s a big regret.   

What a spectacular miss.  It’s got everything I’m looking for in a tree.  Droopy branches.  Big-fisted, tear-drop leaves.  Bright steeples of spring flowers just popping out of the green. 

What happened, Jon Spruce?  I was busy, horse chesnut.  Busy and lazy.

Well, I won’t make the same mistake this time.  Here are three quick sketches of three notable trees…trees I just can’t watch pass by.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Ah, summer.

Long days of blue skies, big clouds, green trees, colorful flowers, warm rain, tall grass, iced coffee in the morning and Corona beers at night.  You got your flies, mosquitos and bees, sure, but you also have the hummingbirds and woodpeckers -- the season of the bear, the bat and the beaver, the ant and the squirrel. 

It’s also the season of sweating on the couch.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the northern summer solstice begins this week, a stretch of long, long days clocking in at 14 hours and 47 minutes, gray moons in the blue evening skies.  If we were cabin-bound in northern Inuit country, then we might be able to see old Sol, for a brief moment, standing still in the sunny midnight hour.  The origin of the word solstice is a combination of sol for “sun” and sistere which means “stands still.”

According to the Medicine Wheel, Wabun the Golden Eagle is flying away from his nest-throne and Shawnodese the Coyote Trickster begins the next three-moon reign, beginning with the paradoxical Strong Sun Moon.  Although considering that the sun and the moon share the sky during this season, maybe the Wheelmakers were on to something there.

If I had any of the spirit of Wabun in me, then I wouldn’t be here right now, in an air-conditioned urban cabin on some numbered street in just another grid in just another city somewhere along this great sprawling megalopolis. 

No, I’d be high-tailing it to the Big Horn county of Wyoming, ten-thousand feet up Medicine Mountain, and I’d be watching the sun rise along its solstice while sitting Indian-style at the southern cairn of an actual medicine wheel. 

Up on Medicine Mountain, there be one of the largest surviving Medicine Wheels, seventy-five feet in diameter, over eight hundred years old, perfectly aligned with the northern summer solstice.

Now that’s the kind of entrance that the Coyote deserves.

If Wabun the Golden Eagle is all eyes and wing, then Shawnodese the Coyote Trickster is all teeth and heart and, for better or for worse, all that the teeth devour and all that the heart ignites: love, hate, fear, sympathy, envy, jealousy, delight, rage, anger, desire, regret, hunger.

And so, it is only appropriate, that the Coyote’s three moons are dominated by the family of trees called the Roses.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


In the last few hours of daylight on Tuesday June 5th, I walked over to the Drexel University observatory to watch the planet Venus cross between the sun and earth.  This will not happen again for another 105 years.

When you think about it that way, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to just sit at home and watch the Phillies blow another game. 

That’s a long time away, 105 years.  It’ll be the year 2117.  That’s five score and five years away but, as I was walking towards the university, my mind wasn’t on the future.  I was thinking about the last hundred and so years…and everything that’s happened in between.

People are always asking me: Hey, Jon Spruce, what are the five most important plant events in the last hundred years?