The Angel of sycamores

by Wolf Pascoe on June 10, 2013

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

— Wordsworth


So far as I know, nobody planted the sycamores that dapple the south California canyons.

It is native to California and Baja California, where it grows in riparian areas, canyons, floodplains, at springs and seeps, and along streams and rivers in several types of habitats. — Wikipedia

Shall we make a found poem of this?

It is native
To California
And Baja California
Where it grows
In riparian areas,
Canyons, floodplains,
at springs and seeps,
And along streams
And rivers
In several types
Of habitats.

The summer camp I inhabited as a teenager nestled in the groves of Little Sycamore Canyon. One night, returning alone from a walk to the beach, I passed through the picnic area. There must have been a moon because the trees had turned silvery and I became disoriented. In that Wordsworth way I stared and stared and felt my heart. What had been a familiar and ordinary scene had, by some strange electricity of atmosphere, turned peculiar and numinous.

Freud, no spiritual slouch despite what you hear, invented a name for such moments: oceanic, he called them.




The Fern Hill Spring camping trip at Leo Carrillo State Park went off without a hitch last week, by some miracle of Providence. Families arrived and sorted themselves into neighborly groups of campsites, billowy tent fields sprouting like johnny jump-ups in perfect weather. Nick took off on his bicycle with a pack of schoolmates and was not seen again until sundown every night.

Each grade held a potluck dinner on Saturday and joined the others after for the all-school campfire. Mr. Happy, I am happy to report, killed again. As did the dulcet Fern Hill mom who accompanied herself on guitar to “I’ll Fly Away.” As did the pair of dancing Minecraft robots, and the dancing children, and on and on.

The campfire closing?

The campfire show will close with the FIRST ANNUAL GLOW PARADE — around 8:30 on Saturday night. Don’t forget to bring your glow in the dark whatnots!

— Sign on the Fern Hill bulletin board

You may imagine the faces of non-Fern Hill park inhabitants as glowing sylphs slithered by them in the dark.




I had little to do with any of this, except to watch. The Fern Hill camping trip had taken flight and I was out of a job. For three whole days, my job was to do exactly nothing. Glorious.

With no electric things, no cell-thing reception, no I-net things, I forgot my obsessions. I forgot names. I forgot everything except the season.

Mostly, I sat among friends and watched the day go by, telling time by the sun and moon, cradled in the sycamores. Without books, I found my catechism: Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, do dishes when Nora tells you.

Leo Carrillo park is one canyon over from Little Sycamore Canyon, as it happens. The sycamores around me were kin to the ones that turned silver that night so many years ago. I love the community of trees; I love how it shelters the human community within.

The week before we arrived, a few of the parents were nervous about sharing campsites with other families they didn’t know well. We needn’t have worried. The Angel of sycamores was in attendance. She was whispering:

Be generous and caring, it will work out. We’re a community and in the end all we have is one another.

Or, as someone once said,

in the end
the love
you take
is equal to
the love
you make.




The sudden community







Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

David June 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

Oh how easily I slip into that silvery dream you paint.
First, I stop and read all of Wordsworth’s poem. Thanks for that. I read it aloud to myself and softly sob at the expressions of what I feel more and more each day as I drift closer to the end, the impending close of earth’s cradling, the return to “that immortal sea”. I have no business or time to be sitting here reading poetry, yet here I am.
And back to your painting; a perfect time, memories in the making. I make a mental note to write a song about sycamores I have known. I bookmark a link to Leo Carrillo. I may never write the song or visit that park, but the yearning moves in me.
Oh, the fullness of it all!
Thanks for the vacation, Wolf.


Wolf Pascoe June 10, 2013 at 11:32 am

You’re most welcome.
I should have hyperlinked the Wordsworth. It’s here: Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood


Jim Parkevich June 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Come my brothers, and I will share with you, my towering sycamores ! When my paternal grand parents came from eastern Europe, they moved to a small town in northern Indiana..The Wabash river meanders and sets boundaries on three sides of the property. 55 years ago, the Sycamores that surround the property at the rivers edge were but saplings..Now they stand 50/60 or more feet along the river bank. And mine are silver in the sun, flashing in the light of a beautiful day..The trees have grown up and I have grown up with them. They connect me to my past and I know they will be growing strong when I am gone. And I know that there will be one child left to carry on the love of the Sycamores.


Wolf Pascoe June 10, 2013 at 3:57 pm

And when I die, and when I’m gone
There’ll be one child born
In this world to carry on, to carry on

— “Carry On,” Blood, Sweat, and Tears


Barbara June 12, 2013 at 7:11 am

When I read that piece from Wikipedia, I thought to myself it sounded very poetic. How funny that in the next paragraph, you turned it into a poem.

When my boys were in Cub Scouts, we had several family camping trips, and I loved getting to know the other families. Although the boys are all grown up, the parents are still some of our closest friends.


Wolf Pascoe June 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm

“When I read that piece from Wikipedia, I thought to myself it sounded very poetic.”

I guess what they say about great minds is true.


Pamela June 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm

What an amazing trip. One of these years I am going to be a stowaway an join you.


Wolf Pascoe June 28, 2013 at 7:08 pm

One more year to go, I think. Bring the boys.


The Exception July 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm

This sounds like pure magic


Wolf Pascoe July 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm

At the time, it was lovely. In retrospect, magic.


BK July 10, 2013 at 7:37 pm

You might like this article about the giant ancient Sycamore tree that stood at the center of Tongva village of Yaanga (now downtown L.A.), Wolf:

Nathan Masters, the author of that article, also wrote this one about the history of Sycamores in Southern California:


Wolf Pascoe July 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I didn’t know about the Aliso tree–what a wonderful story. It reminds me of the tree in Avitar.


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