Things Are Looking Up

By Anita Sanchez

Tree canopy
Tree canopy

– Ani­ta Sanchez

Long ago I worked at a nature cen­ter, lead­ing walks for groups of school chil­dren on field trips. Bus­es would arrive, unload­ing hordes of kids who would stand on the park­ing lot black­top look­ing a tri­fle uneasy. And when­ev­er I start­ed a for­est walk, I’d gath­er the stu­dents before we hit the trail. Now, there are two words I always say to any­one who goes into the for­est,” I’d tell them. Two very impor­tant words.” And they’d all look at me, solemn and ner­vous­ly atten­tive. Not just stu­dents, teach­ers too. 

Because they fig­ured that the for­est is not a place where you go light­ly, where you just wan­der around care­less­ly. There have to be rules, warn­ings, and safe­guards. They were expect­ing that the impor­tant two words would be Don’t Touch!” or Be Care­ful” or Stay Close,” or per­haps Poi­son Ivy.”

So they were always aston­ished when I revealed that the two cru­cial words were: LOOK UP. The idea that we were going to wan­der around in the woods hav­ing fun and look­ing for stuff took a while to sink in, but after a while they loved it. We’d stop in a grove of tall young pines, and watch them danc­ing and sway­ing back and forth in the breeze. That first look up always evoked a one-word response: Wow!” After a while, all I’d have to do was hold up two fin­gers, and every­one would look up.

Wild black cherry
Wild black cherry

Now I don’t do nature walks very often, and I tend to for­get my own advice. As I walk through the day, I’m con­stant­ly look­ing at my feet, my watch, my phone. I for­get to look up, to look up at the ceil­ing of green leaves woven into blue sky. What’s over­head? What shape are the clouds? Is there a wind high above, revealed by the tips of the pines toss­ing and wav­ing? Or a vul­ture soar­ing and tilt­ing, wings in a shal­low V?

One spring day I remem­bered to glance up, and over­head there were drag­on­flies, all fly­ing in a nar­row path stretch­ing across the sky. They must have been migrat­ing, thou­sands of them. Their flight was utter­ly silent, so that I nev­er would have noticed it if I hadn’t looked up. How many times have they flown over­head with­out my see­ing them?

One of the most fas­ci­nat­ing things about look­ing up at the trees of Lan­dis is to observe how they relate to each oth­er. If you look up through the branch­es towards the sky, you’ll see that trees are con­stant­ly striv­ing to avoid hav­ing their branch­es shad­ed out by their neigh­bors. Since each leaf depends on light to jump­start the process of food-mak­ing known as pho­to­syn­the­sis, it’s essen­tial that every leaf get the max­i­mum amount of sun. Over­head the trees are push­ing and shov­ing each oth­er in a slow-motion strug­gle to steal the sunlight. 

For me, look­ing up is a hard habit to cre­ate. Bird­ers do it all the time: they’re used to star­ing up into the branch­es, end­less­ly seek­ing that lit­tle flash of col­or or bit of move­ment. But for those of us who are more into wild­flow­ers, ferns, and moss, it’s good to occa­sion­al­ly get our noses off the ground and into the sky.

So the next time you stroll around the Lan­dis grounds, remem­ber to look up every now and then. Take a look at that wide, bright world over­head you’ve been missing.

Just don’t trip.

Spring 2023

Volume 41 , Number 1

Share this

The Latest from Landis

Oct 07, 2023 | Nolan Marciniec

The Landis community mourns the loss of Anne Donnelly on October 4, 2023

Anne Donnelly was the first of the many friends I’ve made at the Arboretum and... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Fred Breglia, Executive Director

From the Director’s Desk: Update on the Big Tree Search

Landis Arboretum has successfully kicked off its most recent Big Tree Search, and the tree... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Erin McKenna Breglia

From the Garden: Your Autumn Garden Must Haves!

It’s certainly been a rainy summer, but the rain has helped keep our plants green... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Nolan Marciniec

Landis Portraits: A Series About the People Behind the Plants at the Arboretum - Chuck Mueller

Chuck Mueller Volunteering, Chuck Mueller said, “is something you have to believe in . ... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Nolan Marciniec

Volunteers Celebrate Meeting House Renovation

Shawn Bevins, Jim Paley, Craig Blevins, Fred Breglia, and Peter Bakal On a Sunday afternoon... read more

Oct 01, 2023 | Sam McClary

Apples and Man: A Book Review

Apples and Man, by Fred Lape “Apples and Man,” written by Arboretum founder Fred Lape... read more

News Archive