Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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How My Kids Are Like Cottonwoods

Though they signal the beginning of summer every year, somehow I always forget about the cottonwood seeds.

That's okay with me; I sort of enjoy the surprise of waking to the sudden summer snow.

Via Flickr by blmurch

You'll note this is not a photo I took, which is unfortunate.  I really  wanted to capture the fluffy seeds on film (or "on memory card," or however you say it in the digital age) the past few days; I love the lazy way they swirl around, filling the sky.

I love that you can tell the heat of summer has arrived just by the way they move, almost floating through the humidity rather than drifting through the air.

Believe it or not, there are eleventy
hundred seeds in each of these photos.
You just can't see them for some reason.
But every time I took a picture, the seeds had mysteriously disappeared.  I aimed my camera at air that was thick with delicate wisps, like the white lint of a thousand tree bellybuttons, but with each click of the shutter I came away with only background, nothing more.  The few seeds that took pity on me and agreed to make an appearance were nothing but a blur.

Ah, summer - when the edge of
your driveway looks like
it has a frothy case of rabies.

It must be a deficiency in my photography gene.  The only time I could  document the fact that it was Cottonwood Time was when the seeds would settle down and get stuck in something.  That's what they do - amble along on the currents, riding the gentles waves brought by warm breezes, until eventually they come to rest, often catching along the grassy edges of sidewalks or (if you ask Gerry) mostly clogging up the AC condensing unit outside your house.

Check out that clump of seeds.
If I know anything about nature, we are gonna have
a TON of cottonwoods in our yard next year.

Not one to give up (well, usually I am, but not this time) I interwebbed tips on how to get the shots I wanted.  I adjusted my camera's settings.  Ready to go out and take another crack at it, I got my gear and... charged the dead battery.  Sigh.  Well, no big deal, I'll just try again tomorrow.

Except this morning I woke up and the blizzard was over.  Apparently the cottonwoods are finished birthing their seed babies for the year, and we're left to shear our AC units of their tree-wool and rake up the cottonwood dandruff from our dry grass.
I'm lying - there's no way I'm raking in this heat.  Or in any temperature, really.
For some reason, probably excessive drug use, this all reminded me of my kids.  Once again the end of the school year is creeping up on me, and in a few days summer break will be here.  Space that has been relatively empty for months will suddenly be swarming with kids, sometimes swirling erratically and sometimes listlessly drifting, somewhat like the cottonwood seeds, except much, much  louder.  And the seeds don't demand a snack every ten minutes.

I was disappointed when I missed my chance to get the perfect photo of the cottonwood seeds, but there will always be next year, and the same seeds will do the same dance and I'll have another opportunity to capture it.

Not so, with the kids.  They change so fast that, by next year, they'll almost be different people, and I won't ever be able to relive this summer with the people they are now.

I don't want to wake up one day, finally fully charged and "prepared" for summer, and find out that it's already over.

The important thing to remember about the seeds isn't that I missed my chance to preserve their images, though; the important thing is that I witnessed it.  Documenting it on film doesn't make it any more real  - if anything, I wish I'd spent less time squinting through the viewfinder and more time just staring slack-jawed at the sky, enjoying it.

That's what I want to keep in mind as school winds to a close.  Appreciate the next few months.  Be in the moment.  Maybe don't spend so much time trying to catch a memory on film instead of actually making the memory.

Any kids I capture in the frame will just be a blur, anyway.

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Stacey said...

I love this post. It's insightful *and* there are references to tree-belly-button lint. A little something for everyone.

RobynHTV said...

Most people don't know trees have bellybuttons, just because they've never seen one and because there's no scientific evidence for them and because trees aren't mammals. You can learn a lot, though, if you just open your mind to stupidity.

Stacy Uncorked said...

Oh I love this! And I wouldn't be doing any raking in the heat, either. ;)

Funny Face

sporkgasm said...

"...if anything, I wish I'd spent less time squinting through the viewfinder and more time just staring slack-jawed at the sky, enjoying it." This sentence SO resonated with me. I see people at concerts watching through their phones and I'm like, "Where are you going to post that horrible video with bad sound? Just enjoy the show! Be in the now!" I used to have a terrible Facebook affliction. I would literally think, "I can't wait to post that on Facebook." So I got rid of it.

Getting that shot would have been awesome though. I am one of those nerds who is on a website for food photos, so there's that. :)

SeaThreePeeO said...

Wow, somehow I feel I have been missing out not having any cottonwood trees where I live. Fantastic pictures.

Herding Cats

RobynHTV said...

Thanks! And yeah, I'm leaving all the yard tasks to my husband until fall. Unless I'm still not in the mood to do anything in the fall. ;)

RobynHTV said...

Thank you! I think a lot of people consider them a nuisance since they make such a mess, but I kind of gave up on controlling messes after having kids so the yard fluff doesn't bother me. :)

RobynHTV said...

Glad it struck a chord - I often wonder that myself, and then ten seconds later find myself guilty of the same thing. I have this strange compulsion to document every little thing with a photo, plus I am a sucker for a well-framed "artsy" shot and have a teense too much fun orchestrating some pictures. It sure does interfere with participating in Real Life sometimes, though. :)

shannon said...

This was a really lovely read, thank you. I loved the imagery in the 'floating through the humidity' line, very poetically waxed :) Plus, you made me want to go hug my kid which usually results in a 'get off me I'm trying to play Xbox' scuffle so I have that to look forward to...

Christian at Point Counter-Point Point Point said...

But if it's a memory that you don't take a picture of and then immediately post to facebook along with an status update of what you ate for lunch, is it really worth remembering?

RobynHTV said...

Good luck to you - I've never won an attention contest with the Xbox. :)

RobynHTV said...

Most likely not. Plus I'm probably doing my kids a huge disservice; all this time I think I'm dutifully recording their childhoods so they can rehash it all later, when in fact I'm robbing them of the ability to block it all out so they can hope to become functional adults. Sigh - just another misguided stab at parenting.

Claremont First Ward said...

It's funny how much we look forward to summer and how quickly we look forward to them going back. :)

The Third Partier said...


RobynHTV said...

That's exactly right - it's pretty much simultaneous. :)

Kimberly said...

I'm a camera whore and I have a hard time putting down the camera and just enjoying the moment and creating it.

RobynHTV said...

Seriously, me too. It's so bad that any of our kids will halt in their tracks and produce a manufactured smile at the words, "I need a picture." It's not normal for children to resist the urge to dig into birthday cake or stop riding their bikes or freeze in the middle of a pillow fight so their mother can stage a photo. I think I'm ruining them.

just keep swimming said...

This was a wonderful post and it stabbed me in the heart with guilt that I'm ditching my kids this summer and all next year as I go back to school. Now I'm all like "Crap! Can I unenroll in school so I can spend the summer at home with my kids?" Your writing is pretty powerful to make me reconsider my long awaited escape.

RobynHTV said...

That's great news - I was totally going for "heart stabbing guilt" as my theme! No, but seriously, good for you for going back to school! The kiddos will be fine, you'll get a chance to regrow some of the brain matter they killed, and they'll be taught a lesson about the importance of education - win, win, win! Plus you always have the option of secretly skipping class and drinking in your car - just sayin', you know, in an emergency.

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