When we first drove through the hill country I became captivated by the oak trees that grow here. You can see them in the pictures below. They are called Texas live oaks (similar to the iconic Southern live oak), but when Mom and I first read the name at the Austin Botanical Gardens we thought it said “lively oaks”. Both names fit. They are alive, and they are lively in their presence. They grow in unusual directions, sometimes low to the ground, or their branches grow at right angles, or undulate outward. They twist and writhe to their own internal music. They are like freestyle jazz interpretations of what an oak tree can be.

I see them everywhere, cataloging the differences in appearance, judging them by unusualness, crown of spread branches and robust branch girth. I admire the play of light and shadows that are cast by the clusters of trees, called motts. Texas live oaks have a funny reproductive habit (I guess they also use nuts, too?). They “send up” shoots from their root system to form new trees so that a mott of trees really look like branches of a giant buried trunk. Apparently the motts share underground root systems and can stretch for acres, even under neighborhoods.

I wonder what it would be like to recline in their low reaching arms, perfect for a girl who likes to climb trees to find silence for a book or daydream. I have decided that when we buy a house there must be a decent Texas live oak nearby enough that I can gaze out at it and our children can play in it. When I see an exceptionally fine specimen in someone else’s lawn, or presiding over a commercial parking lot I get jealous, wanting to climb it or sit under it. I think to myself, that is the tree that I wish I could have in my future yard.

When I look at them I feel summer evening breezes, see cafe lights dangling from limbs and twinkling, taste a cool, crisp Chardonnay and hear the croon of Kind of Blue along with the laughter of friends gathered for an evening under the tree. I see rope swings and tree houses. I see a young woman in white smiling as she makes her vows under the strong arms of the tree she used to climb in. I see a tree stretching its branches across decades of my family’s life.