Trees are Cool and so are Our Teachers

By Terry Foxx

My oldest daughter, Alison Carlisi, was a dental hygienist for 20 years and then the school system in Utah convinced her to teach middle school and High school science. Wow, what a professional change. She now teaches 8th grade science and High School biology. She began teaching February 2022.  What a challenge! Because some students had freedom to do on-line classes, many had not taken the task of school seriously.  In addition, other students were not willing to be in a regular classroom. But she persisted. 

This year has been better. However, she must take special classes to make up for the fact she had not taught.  The first class was on botany.  The assignment was to write something that made plants seem cool and was supposed to be engaging and emotional. What to do, another challenge! So, she wrote a poem about a tree.  Not just any tree but the whole life of the tree. I was enthralled! She had written another long poem when the Cerro Grande fire burned into Los Alamos. As a young person, raised in Los Alamos, she was bereft and because of her grief she had written a poem to help express that loss.  A mother/daughter work came out as the “Forest and the Fire” published by the Historical Society in 2005.

How did I come to illustrating and journaling? When her son was about 5, she had written a story for her son called “Under the Sunny Sunflower.” It was about a little boy who dreamed of becoming small and having adventures in a garden. She asked me one day if I would illustrate it. “I can’t do that. I don’t have the skill!” was my reply. She had responded “Yes you can!” With great misgivings and with every illustration I did it!  She was the one that pushed me to do what I believed was unthinkable. We all need someone like that!

Some samples of the illustrations for my grandson.

When Alison was a teenager, she would write music, sing songs, and play her guitar, usually scribbling the notes on a scrap of paper. I decided it was time to get all those scraps of paper combined into a CD. This we have and I cherish each song.

Selvi Viswanathan suggested we use the new poem as our September blog. At first, I was hesitant. However, Alison copyrighted the poem, and I decided it was an important lesson.  We have blogged about trees and their importance to our lives. However, her poem says it from the heart.  So here it is.

 I told her I would illustrate it and someday it will be done. But until then, please listen to her school assignment. I hope you are as amazed about the life of a tree as I was.  Remember each tree contributes to our love of the out-of-doors and our culture. Poetry is often said to be soul food, and I believe it is true. 


BY Alison Carlisi (2023)

Unpublished work, copyright, Alison Carlisi 2023

There the tree stood on a hill in a field,

Its graceful bows lifting leaves to the light.

I walked the path to reach its cool shade,

And there I rested and thought on the sight.

The trees wide trunk and its canopy reaching,

held lessons past, present, and future worth teaching.

This tree like all of her latitude kin,

Records the history of weather, water, and wind.

From the day her cotyledon broke through soil

She has kept the record of her life’s toil.

And we beneficiaries of this historian’s task

Use building beams, violins, and fossils to look at the past.

What was the climate 1000 years ago?

Look at the tree rings and we can know.

This witness to human events long past

Has stood in her place while human fate caste.

On battlefields, trails, and long wagon trains,

Her kind witnessed history in graceful refrain.

I breath in a breath of cool spring air

And gaze at the leaves working there.

The green of the leaves, a reflection I see,

While red and blue rays are what the tree needs.

The suns energy captured is put quick to task,

Making sugar from carbon, leaving Oxygen gas.

The tree annually takes about 48 pounds,

Of CO2 from the air, which frankly astounds.

Think now of every tree turning carbon to sugar.

Tons of pollution removed, our heroes, our victor.

Evapotranspiration and shade cool air like a tent,

20-40 degrees difference, she lowers the temp.

Today many cities design streets and lots

With these giant green sunshades as part of the plot.

A forest of trees makes a microclimate of moisture.

Yes, trees change the weather, an important feature.

When trees cling to a bank, or a cliff, or a hill,

They hold onto the soil, preventing erosion with will.

In the branches are nests, and cocoons, and drays,

Where birds and bugs, and squirrels stay.

A brown hawk, far sighted, perches to rest,

While he spies for his meal, from this branchy crest.

Flower petals tumble from blooms on branch tips,

As wind gently shakes pollen lose for a trip.

It lands on the female flower parts,

Sperm and egg meet, and a new life starts.

And as the summer wanes into the fall,

Days shorten and photosynthesis stalls.

The chlorophyll that to us appeared so green,

Now fades, leaves coloring red-yellow sheen.

And the tree that provided me shade and delight,

Stands against winter and awaits timing right.

To once again bud, then bloom and grow,

Shelter, and shade, recording life’s flow.

From breathing to beauty for life she’s a harbor

So, let’s celebrate this one day of the Arbor.

On April 28th of each year may I plea,

Stop and think, enjoy breathing, and plant a tree.

By Alison Carlisi, Copyright 2023

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