When I was in college and on the air at the campus radio station, a buddy created a lovely program of soft new-age music that aired late every Sunday night. He called it The Catalpa Tree because he liked the way it sounded. “You’re under the catalpa tree on WMHD,” he’d say as he segued into the next movement of relaxing musical ephemera. He thought the name was extra appropriate because he was told that a particular old tree on campus was a catalpa. But he admitted that he wouldn’t recognize a catalpa if he saw one.
Years passed. I graduated college, started my career, got married, had kids, and got divorced. While I waited for the divorce to be final, my church let me live in its vacant parsonage out in front of the church. Out the living-room window you could see the large median between the in and out driveways to the church parking lot. A very large tree stood in it. I had no idea what it was, but it sure was full and lush. In the spring it produced a lot of lovely white flowers with purple accents.
The tree needed trimming, and I had spotted a hole to a hollow spot. It needed an arborist’s attention, and I mentioned it to one of the church elders. “Oh, the catalpa tree,” he said. “That’s a catalpa?!” I replied. “Yes, and it’s easily 150 years old,” he said.
It was beautiful in the spring, for sure, but it was interesting after the leaves fell off in the autumn. Its branches were twisted and knurled like a wild lightning storm, moving up from the ground rather than down from the sky.
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