“Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa): Large, heart-shaped leaves [and] Long distinctive seed pods (“big green bean”) […]”
-Alice Brandon, “Tree & Shrub Identification”
In the last weeks I’ve started recognizing catalpa trees and purple coneflowers, and now whenever I walk I see them. Bursts of purple blooms grow on the corner near my apartment, and in my friend’s front yard. And in so many fields. Catalpas hang their characteristic “big green beans” like thin magic lanterns over the sidewalk. Each time I see one it’s like saying hello.
There are a few ways I’ve thought of playing with these moments for a post. For instance, I’ve “meant” to recognize more plants for years, and something funny happened when I stopped “meaning” to and instead saw this burst of purple, this hang of heady green. There’s also something curious about which plants I’m learning: when I was in Oklahoma, I thought, well should I learn these? I won’t be here long. When I got to Illinois I thought the same thing. If I’m going to learn trees, which trees, where?
Here, I think. I’ve walked underneath a catalpa almost every day. There are purple coneflowers twenty-two steps from where I’m sitting.
I like those thoughts, but they’re not quite what I want to say. I want to say: look. I want to say that tree has seedpods like tall candles, waiting to be lit, or maybe they’re already lit and they shine photosynthesis and oxygen and saplings instead of candle flames. And they make me grin. And then I want watch them a moment, maybe with you, and say hello.