We’ve had a very hot Summer here in Southeast Michigan. I could wow you with lots of stats, but I’ll keep it simple … we have had three times as many hot, (as in over 90F/32C), days this year. I say this year, because we had a handful of sultry days before Summer even arrived on the calendar.
The weather has worn me down.
It seems Mother Nature has had a bee in her bonnet for a while now.
As I get in my steps on these hot and humid mornings, I often wonder aloud “did we have scorching hot days back in the day, like we’ve endured this Summer of 2020, or is this really the result of global warning?” I concede, yes it was hot, but perhaps we were so engrossed in doing fun things with our friends that we never noticed the heat and humidity that we often grumble about in adulthood. It has seemed like an endless stretch of weather warnings and much angst over worrying about a tornado or derecho or trees toppling over onto the house. I shudder when I see photos in the news of decades-old trees taking out a garage, house or car, when they are uprooted from soggy ground after a torrential rain.
Our City has a lot of old and established trees, and, as I’ve driven or walked through the neighborhoods this Summer, I have seen large tree branches scattered everywhere. Some of the branches were so large that the tree was left not only lopsided, but now dangerous and in need of being cut down. Some days I’ve gone through the ‘hood and all that remains is a pile of wood chips or sawdust, in the space where a tall and regal tree graced the homeowner’s property just a few days before.
While I am a nature lover, I’m not what you would call a “tree hugger” per se, but it does make me feel sad to see these gentle giants torn apart, their branches scattered about.
Recently I went down a side street and came upon a scene that really hurt my heart. Wow! Not only did I see a tree ravaged by Mother Nature, but this was a tree I could identify with. My mind quickly flashed back to Summertime, circa 1966 and maybe even 1967, when I whiled away the hours at Buckingham Park with other kids from the neighborhood.
I last visited this park in 2014 and wrote a post wherein I waxed nostalgic about the good times spent with my pals during Summer break from school. My post was how that park was still wearing its Winter-weary hues and the only spot of color at that venue was the majestic Willow tree that had already leafed out. I was so struck by how green this tree was amidst a still-dull landscape, that I took a photo of that Willow, which you see up top in black and white – the color version is found in the original post – you can click here if you’d care to read it.
Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.
Well here’s the backstory about discovering the ravaged Weeping Willow tree. A couple of weeks ago, while at Council Point Park, the grass-mowing crew arrived. Well, that put an immediate kibosh on the peace and tranquility at the Park. Once the crew fires up their respective noisy mowers, the squirrels immediately hightail it to their nests and the birds likewise flee the scene. I generally hightail it as well, exiting the Park and disappearing into the ‘hood.
On that morning, for a change of pace, I meandered over to Ford Park, formerly known as Buckingham Park when I was growing up.
Our City has 22 parks altogether. That’s pretty amazing since the entire City is just a smidge over five square miles. Council Point Park is one of a kind, a cozy nature nook tucked in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Lion’s Park is similar, on a much-smaller scale, also along the Ecorse Creek but geared for disabled children to have a place to play. There are parks dedicated to Little League with few amenities and still other parks have playscapes but nothing else. There’s something for everyone.
But back in the 60s, there was no better place for kids to spend their Summer vacation days than a daily trip to Buckingham Park.
Right after breakfast, just like clockwork, the three girls down the street arrived at my driveway and would call out my name. I’d go out and open the garage to get my bike and off we’d go. We could have walked – it was not far away, but our bikes were our “wheels” back then, a means to whisk us away from the street to wherever we wished to go. My bike was blue with white fenders and I had a snazzy white wicker basket adorned with flowers. I’d toss my brown bag lunch in there and off we went.
It seemed as though this Willow Tree was weeping.
Willow trees are majestic and graceful and may grow as tall as 50 feet, their slender branches and thin, lime-green leaves sweeping the ground … like this.
Weeping Willows can live as long as 75 years if they are located in a spot where they are able to grow tall and wide, with roots stretching endlessly underground. While I walked around the sad remains of this gentle giant, I felt sad.
I spoke to a neighbor who saw me taking photos and together we were tsk-tsking over the fate of this beautiful Willow. I told him my history at the park and he said the tree’s demise was not due exclusively to the volatile weather and high winds, but it was running with ants.
So, I made it a point to take some photos up close of the ant damage, even though I knew what it would look like. We lost two tall Oak trees in the backyard and a beautiful Honey Locust out front, all the result of the ravage of Carpenter Ants. They are destructive insects that chew, but do not eat, the wood. They then tunnel through the tree to make nests. The empty tunnels create instability in the tree trunk and branches, until one day a stiff wind will cause the tree to snap.
Here, have a look at the damaged wood that is exposed. You can see the tunnels from the Carpenter Ants in these shots.
I stepped around to the other side of the tree with a different view of the damage the Carpenter ants had wreaked on the Willow; I saw a huge swath of bare wood and a broken branch hanging perilously off the tree.
In recent years, after my 2014 photo, a perimeter bench was constructed around the Willow’s trunk. You can see just how large that tree trunk was.
I meandered around the grounds, reminiscing as I went along.
Many hours were spent at Buckingham Park, either on the playground equipment or sitting cross-legged on the grass under the shade of that old Willow tree where we interacted with a college-aged girl, whose Summer job was to engage our young minds with fun activities like games and various crafts. It was like a mini version of Summer Day Camp, a place to go with pals and meet other kids. Our parents never worried about us. We munched on our brown-bag lunches while we chattered away and when the park closed for the day, we returned to our respective homes in time for dinner.
The only item we paid for was supplies for crafts. It cost just a few pennies for plastic lace which we bought in various colors by the yard and was woven together to fashion lariats and keychains. We purchased our supplies through a half-door at this little building which still stands.
We climbed around on playground equipment like this pair of abstract structures, which are now faded and peeling, but remain nonetheless after all these years.
I remember thinking this one looked like Swiss cheese ….
… and this one resembled a weird-shaped pretzel.
I checked out the swing set.
I am sure this is the original metal swing set, only now it has been outfitted with baby seats, one of which was in disrepair. I remember we would swing to our heart’s content, reaching higher and higher into the sky, kicking our legs to gain momentum and dragging the toe of one white canvas “tennie” into the dirt to “brake” and come to a stop.
These are two newer playscapes – we never had something so modern back in the day.
If it was hot, we were cooling off to our knees in the shallow wading pool, which cement structure still has the sloped sides, but now serves as a rudimentary basketball court.
Famous final scene.
I have returned a few times to Ford Park since that day when I took all these photos, zigzagging from my regular route home from Council Point Park. I wanted to see if the big Willow tree had been removed, but it remains, half of a hulking giant and a sad image of its former self and yes… I do believe this Willow is weeping.
If you’re still here after this lengthy post, thanks for time-travelin’ back with me on this Throwback Thursday.