Greg Tonian, 2017
The Trinity River Valley of North Texas drew us all here, Though we did not realize it. We may not know how or why, Perhaps it was for a glimpse of a Buckeye? John Neely Bryan built a cabin on a Trinity River bluff He founded Dallas in the 1840’s. Dreams were grand, but times were tough. When I drove out in ‘85, I asked myself, Where are all the trees? 4 not 3 Branches for the Trinity, Father, Mother, Son and Holy Spirit? I skipped church one Sunday to pay a visit. My goal, to see a buckeye tree. Clear fork out of Weatherford, merges with the West Fork and comes in from Ft. Worth, the Elm Fork flows down from the north, through Gainesville, Denton, and Carrolton. They unite in Dallas and are joined by the East fork south of town. The rivers of my formative years were the Ohio near Louisville Kentucky, The Delaware, you can guess where. Killbuck in Wooster Ohio, the Ashley and the Cooper in Charleston South Carolina, They flow on but I left a long time ago. We all got here sooner or later, Settled down and have done many things since we arrived, Meanwhile, nearby, flowed the Trinity River Embraced in its arms we have flourished and thrived. I had heard about a Great Trinity Forest, The largest Urban Forest in the US To see the Buckeyes was on my bucket list Why it took so long is anyone’s guess. So, on the last Sunday in March, A few weeks back, I headed out, I ventured out on a Naturalist’s quest, To see for myself, once and for all, What the hoopla was all about. I left my home just a few miles from Lake Lewisville, Where the Elm Fork is blocked, I took a circuitous route southward, I had some questions about area rock. After crossing the Elm Fork in Irving on Loop 12, I surveyed the Austin Chalk Escarpment shelf, At I 20 and Mountain Creek parkway, It had been clearly washed away. Turning East, I passed signs of carnage, Emergency vehicles and crumpled metal, The early morning serenity was tarnished. No way that was not fatal! I headed north on South Central Expressway, Espied Austin Chalk outcrops crumbling, Examined them for fossils, Found clams from a bygone day. Amidst the modern trash and detritus, Signs of ancient sea life, 80-Million-year-old Shells and skeletons. Fragile remnants preserved in gray and white. Further ahead, Ever closer to the buckeyes, A taco truck made me pull to the side. Barbacoa and salsa Verde hit the spot, Around me, no signs of trees, Only seedy hotels and industrial lots At the trail head we gathered, Bill was preparing us for what mattered. Over the berm hovered massive trees, Flowers danced in the soft breeze. Soon we worked our way into the woods, Sights, sounds, and scents all around, Signs of new growth. Hackberries. Box elders, oaks, Tendrils bursting from the ground. Flora and fauna, some familiar, some strange, lined our route. Textures and shapes of leaves and bark, Petals and cobwebs, Bird chirps, insect buzzes, A patch of swamp privet with blooms, Spring had arrived. No doubt! Then, there “they” were. The buckeyes! Unfurling, embryonic, starshaped leaf clusters, Deep green pennants, Veins backlit by the blinding midday sun. Elaborate, ornate, lemon chiffon pagodas jutted skyward, We had entered a sacred monastery in the forest. Below them and us, The chocolate milk waters flowed. The mud on the river bottom beckoned us like the sirens in the Iliad, To suck us under, or to send us tumbling downstream, Either to nourish the trees above, or exile us from this sacred grove. Forests beckon us and draw us in, Inspire awe and trepidation. Yet when we walk amongst trees, It can be a form of meditation. A visit to a forest can be a pilgrimage, A walk to find a sacred place, To immerse oneself in nature’s cathedral, To mingle with things older and wiser, To see a world in equilibrium, Plants and animals living side by side, Life in balance, though vulnerable as you and I. We stood in awe in the grove of buckeyes, Volunteers marking young saplings with plastic ties, We headed home, Gratified. Early the previous morning, On the levee nearby, A nameless fellow, Was beaten and pierced and left to die. He did not get to see, Nor was he likely aware, That nearby, Grew a tree called a Buckeye. I took a pilgrimage to find a tree. Down South in a forest beside the Trinity. Near the trail head was Bonton Farms, A kernel of hope in a so-called food desert. A co-existence of plants and men. Like Joni (Mitchell) once said, The time is nigh, For you and I, to “get back to the Garden”.