Overview: Go on a walk near your place of residence or somewhere with easy access and scan the landscape as you walk. Allow yourself to be drawn to a single tree. Make yourself as comfortable as possible. This will be your "habitat" for your FJs through the semester. This first field journal involves simply getting to know your spot, tree and some of your senses.
Outdoor Description: We come to know a place viscerally, through the senses. Most of us rely heavily upon our vision to do so. In this exercise, the first task is to write down everything you notice about your tree -- feel the bark, close your eyes and listen, smell the different parts of the tree, watch the movements of the tree, describe the colors you see on the tree, look for any seeds or leaves on the ground and describe them. Sketch a leaf from your tree and a silhouette of the tree's shape.
Indoor Interpretation: Using your sketches and the other information you fathered, look up the genus and species name of your tree in a field guide. Write down the Latin classification as well as the common name by which the tree is known. If you are able, find out the physical characteristics of the larger family of which this tree in a member.
8/28/09 | 5:54PM | 88˚F
There are steady winds and a brilliant sunset to my east. Everything seems very parched.
This tree's bark looks like it was sculpted from clay, and then tediously scoured with a fork vertically to create rough, distinct ridges. Is this a defense mechanism of the tree? It has to be. The texture is like nothing I have ever felt before. The ridges are almost to raggedness that I feel that if I ran my hands down it too quickly, I would surely cut myself.
To look on it would fool one, though, because in the tree's presence there is a certain softness. I close my eyes to the world and hear the neighbors get together to my right. To me, though, it is just a slur of children's laughter and it seems to play in with the tree's enchanting essence. I feel almost at home by this tree, but maybe it is because I can also hear my mother clanking away in the kitchen directly behind me. She calls out and asks me if I am doing well, but I continue to listen and not speak. She understands. The wind kicks up and the breeze wafts a smell that I recognize as wet earth. I explore and find it to be the soil beneath me. It reminds me of the smell right after it rains. The bark has an even more musty smell to it, like stepping into a library. My hands play with the fallen leaves and berries beside me on the ground. The leaves smell of fresh cut grass, very much alive. The two smells, the earthly, mustiness of the bark and ground and this leaf are very conflicting. I take a small whiff of the berries I have accidently smashed in my hand. The aroma is overpowering. It smells almost like a perfume, a candle with a very strong scent.
The berries leave my hand very sticky and I wonder what exactly this tree is. The tree is very solid, almost stoic, with the wind still blowing. Only the top is swaying, but very modestly and very soothingly. I take in the tree's colors as a whole. The bark is an overall very light grey with an intricate light brown showing around the edges of the upturned bark. The tree's leaves come in many different greens. I can tell the new-growth from the old. The new-growth is farther out of the limb and is a bright green, while nearer the trunk/core of the tree, on the limb, are older leaves that are dark evergreen. The bunches of berries on the tree hold different colors, too. Some are a jade green, others a bright green/yellow and others are purely black. Are these the stages of life conveyed in the colors? I go back to my leaf that I had picked up and grab some more fallen berries in my hands. I close my eyes. The leaf is medium in size, but seems very fragile in my hand. It is glossy, like photo printing paper, and has a membrane that goes up the middle and also seems to surround the exterior of the leaf with a ridge of hardness. The leaf has a definite tip, kind of reminds me of a holly tree leaf but longer and without the thorns. The berries are oblong little balls of life and are very hard to the touch, but also very smooth.
I located my tree's information online at Texas Tree Planting Guide Online
that also gave me great article on the family of my tree. My tree's Latin Classification is Sapindus drummondi
. The common name by which the tree is known is the Western Soapberry. The larger family that my tree is located in is the Sapindaceae family. Also included in the family are the maple, horse chestnut and lychee trees. Not all members of this family are trees, though; some are herbaceous plants or lianas. Most of the plants in this family have flowers that are small and unisexual and the fruits in which this family bores are either fleshy or dry and may contain a milky sap, according to Watson and Dallwitz