I Hate Trees.

fucking_treesI hate the trees in Minnesota. Not a little, but a lot.  They’re fucking everywhere. There’s no escape from the giant oaks, wide maples, and imposing boxelders. There are fields and fields of trees, often standing mere inches apart  . . . endless acres of crowded trunks, thick and spindly, with gnarled branches and continuously falling leaves.  Unlike the Sierra and redwood forests I once loved, these trees don’t seem at all majestic. Instead they look like bad planning — like orphans left to mindlessly procreate and suffocate each other.

They dull the sun and obscure the view, and the sheer number of them makes it hard to appreciate what otherwise might be interesting, unique, or beautiful.  In this way, trees, I think,  are like nature’s exclamation points. And Minnesota has way too many of them.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I prefer the neat rows of palm trees in Southern California, or the leafless evergreen pines of Tahoe, or the dignity of Northern redwoods that insist on having their own space even in a crowd.  Even the rolling, prickly sagebrush of the Nevada desert is more appealing to me than the haphazard and overly-exclamatory trees of Minnesota.

Many people claim to love the wilderness. They are excited about Outdoors! Nature! Ruggedness! I wonder where the bodies are buried. They see Wildlife! Bears! Eagles!!! I see round-bellied crows feeding off of carcasses. They delight in the trees. Birch! Willows! White Ash! I feel anxious about not being able to see what’s on the horizon. I have never been able to see what’s on the horizon in Minnesota.

Kristine sat at the counter in her cut-off jeans and gym socks, dirty sneakers dangling from the stool, biting her lip and twirling her hair as she studied the geography of places she’d never see. . .

After the reading, Tammie/Raven took a deep breath and closed her eyes as if my future was exhausting, even to her. I tried to suppress my laughter, but the Avon catalog was still on the table, and my pockets were full of tiny test tubes of lipstick and Timeless Ultra cologne. . .

The baby was shirtless in October, splotches of M&M colors covering his chest as he sucked on a faded blue bottle filled with Sprite. . .

His voice rose as he repeated his request that I borrow him a big. A what? I asked. A BIG!!! he screamed. I asked him to write it down.  Oh, a bag.  Well, he replied, dat’s what I sayd a doozen times, ain’t it?

Minnesota has been my wilderness.  A land without a foreseeable horizon.  There are too many trees here, too many exclamation points, and too many strange stories.  I need the neatness of a valley to lay everything out in — I need to be able to see for miles ahead — I need sunshine to dry out and cure my memories.

California! Tahoe! Santa Monica! Santa Cruz!  It’s still a long ways off, but in the meantime I’m peering through the shadows of trees, imagining once again feeling like a friendly native in a land of diverse freaks I’m comfortable with and who speak the same language.  And sure, California probably invented the exclamation point (as well as the word awesome) but much like bronzer and belly button rings  Californians just wear them better.

Edited, 6/11/09

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  1. I should have known you are a punctuation prude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Come west Jane!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’d love to meet you IRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If Neil is still out here we can have a party!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  2. I like the story. What keeps you from where your spirit is at home? Minnesotan since 1981 FYI

  3. Jane — awesome story. (I used to live in Sacramento, so I can use the word.) I’m so jealous of your ability to create these stories. I almost used an exclamation point.) Anyway, glad I stumbled across you in the Twitterverse because you’ve become my smoke-break here at work. (I don’t smoke but think it’s only fair that I enjoy some sort of addiction at the office like everyone else.)

  4. I’m a grrrl who has one night stands with exclamation points, who likes the lack of commitment of an ellipsis, the breathy pause of a comma, the conclusive end of a period, the promise of an indent.

    My whole life, I’ve been drawn to trees, leaves, and forests in every season. My first love was a man who always pulled me off the trail and into the rough.

  5. I love trees. When the sun seres through brilliant blue skies at over 100 degrees, a dense mesquite is a refuge, a bosque is an oasis; and living within one helps me survive this harsh desert environment. The exclamation point? I write with them rarely, but speak in them routinely. Doing so has nothing to do with others’ ease, but reflects my general attitude. I’m a glass half-full, sun’ll-come-up-tomorrow kind of gal. And Minnesota? Never been there. But your writing tempts me to venture out, you know, like going to the zoo or a day at the museum, just to have a look.

  6. Exclamation points are only good when expressing anger, shock, or resentment. For example; “I sat by the phone but he NEVER fucking called! Bastard!” It’s the only time the exclamation point really feels authentic. Regarding the trees, well, as an ex-Michigander I can relate. I do miss the snow, about twice a year, but the rest of the time I’m just happy that I can see the sun in Texas.

  7. I’ve not seen Minnesota trees, but have seen redwoods of NoCal & Douglas Fir of Oregon. Here in PA its firs & pines & cedars are gorgeous. All trees are beautiful. But clearly you are yearning for California. Personally, having lived in SoCal for 3 years in grad school and NoCal for 5 years working I wholeheartedly recommend NoCal, Sacto, SF Peninsula & Mendocino are clearly where your muse lies.

  8. My daddy planted those trees! But for the very first time in 60 years I’m asking myself why. Dad was from ND. Mom from MN. He was at the CCC camp in Cass Lake when they met. One of the many interesting things he did there was plant trees. But why in Minnesota where they already had so many instead of North Dakota where there were none. My childhood was filled with conversations with lots of exclamation points about the trees and lakes of Minnesota and the lack of both in North Dakota. Thanks for the reminder of the fun we had. You are right though. They weren’t nearly so pretty when I went back and saw them as an adult. I’ve missed you.

  9. So glad you are back, Jane. You have been missed. We have some nice palm trees in Florida also but of course hurricane season starts tomorrow.

  10. That’s so fuckin’ awesome!!!!!!! dude.


    i couldn’t resist. i’m a California native. i have my rights….well, at least some of them.

    Jane, your stories never fail to make me laugh. It’s a sick knowing kinda laugh. These people. I swear i’ve met them all.

  11. You’re funny. And smart. And a kick-ass writer.

    I love nature and trees so the title of this post intrigued me, but the trees you described, I’ve experienced too. In Indiana. The creepy, weird, gang-like trees. Sheer quantity of something lessens it’s beauty somehow.

  12. dear Jane, I am so glad you’re back. I found out by accident and was thrilled to find your gifted prose on my screen. Thanks. (after 10 years in the high desert-which I love- I must say that I miss the Wisconsin lakes and trees). Guess the grass is always greener.

  13. I can so relate with the trees. The sheer number of them is what I disliked most about New Jersey and Maryland. I could never tell where I was or where I was going. I always felt lost.

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