April 8, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Eucalyptus Memories

I grew up alongside the Torrey Pines State Reserve, and attended Torrey Pines High School, so I'd probably have to vote the Torrey pine as my favorite tree. Few trees can match its quiet majesty, and there's no sight quite like a gnarled, towering Torrey pine gripping a sandstone bluff, overlooking the blue Pacific. But the eucalyptus would be a close runner-up. My appreciation of the Torrey pine stems from an objective recognition of its beauty, but my love for the eucalyptus is much more personal. It inspires sense memories of simpler times, echoes of a youth unclouded by cynicism and disillusionment. If one could feel kinship with a tree, that would describe how I feel.

Such strong feelings about a plant likely arise from the omnipresence of the eucalyptus in most of my childhood memories. Though the tree is not native to San Diego, it has long since established itself as one of the most common trees in the city. Much of the suburb of Scripps Ranch, for instance, is a vast forest of eucalyptus trees. The San Diego Zoo acquired koala bears from Australia in 1925, perhaps because eucalyptus trees grew so abundantly here (koalas eat eucalyptus leaves, and nothing else). Even my high school was surrounded by eucalyptus trees, not Torrey pine trees.

My first love was zoology, and had I chosen to do what I love most, I'd probably be studying gorillas in the mountains of Africa right now. My frequent trips to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park thus stand out as magical times in my childhood. Since countless eucalyptus trees cover the grounds of both parks, the trees remind me of such memories on a subconscious level. The trees also cover the hills and canyons of the local San Dieguito Park. My visits to this beautiful park as a child were infrequent enough to keep it special, so this too has probably contributed to the eucalyptus tree's ability to inspire subconscious feelings of happiness.

Many things have the power to make me wax nostalgic, such as the smell of salt in the air, the taste of fried bananas, the sound of certain early-1980s pop music hits. But perhaps no other single thing feels more like "home" than the humble eucalyptus tree.


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Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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4/7: Sleep
4/6: Writing, Just Not Here
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