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On wondrous trees, foul grammar and the chance to brighten a wounded vet's holidays

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Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 10:00 pm

I'm glad there are so many crape myrtle trees in my gardens. They provide wonderful color with their varied blossoms in summer and their brilliant colors in fall.

One dogwood is a heavenly red wine color, and a neighbor's Modesto ash is as yellow as the gingkos in front of the Lodi Woman's Club. And the best is yet to come: The large Japanese maple is just beginning to turn color. It puts nearly everybody else to shame.

(In case anyone is wondering, yes, it is crape, not crepe, when speaking of the myrtle. Crepe is a kind of material dresses used to be made of.)

Speaking of trees, my friend Joyce Harmon has a bunch of young oak trees in 5-gallon pots and she is looking for foster "parents" to care for them until they are ready for planting, preferably in one of the city parks. Ed DeBenedetti park certainly needs this kind of attention, now that work is beginning there.

Now that there is so much concern about city funds, etc., Joyce spoke of one neighborhood where homeowners got together and had all the street trees pruned at once. The trees were cared for, and the cost was a lot less than if the pruning had been done by each homeowner separately. Joyce is hoping, and so am I, that other neighborhoods will follow suit. Trees are one of God's greatest natural gifts, and we should care for them well.

Thinking of trees brings me to an article in the latest Wilderness Society magazine. Written by Jennifer Ackerman, it speaks of the forest odor of pine and cedar trees, old wood and leaves underfoot, and the particular uplift this odor can bring when one walks through a forest. The author always wondered why this scent always made her feel so good, until she came on a Japanese study about the good effects of shinrin-yoku, or taking in the atmosphere of the forest. The study said that "forest bathing" can have beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and immune function. Fortunately, we have some true forests within reasonable driving distance, so we can take advantage of this natural medicine. And a note from a reader reminds me that the leaf is a heraldic symbol of happiness.

Being curious about word origins, I looked up "tree," and found it comes from Middle English from the Old English "treo(w)," pronounced with a long e. It is akin to Old Frisian, Icelandic, Old Saxon and Gothic words, all spelled somewhat similarly, and also akin to the Greek "drys," meaning "oak," and the Sanskrit "dru," meaning "wood."

An interesting thing happened the other night. I got a phone call from a lady asking for "Lucille." I told her I'd had my phone number for 50 years and no Lucille had lived here all that time. It seems she was calling a relative who was visiting an aunt in Lodi, and the number she was given was mine, We got to chatting and she was calling from Gatlinburg, Tenn., in the Great Smoky Mountains, where it was cold with snow expected higher up. Seems she was born and brought up in Oakland, later moving east. My life was just the opposite - born and brought up in the East and moving west. The only part of Tennessee I'd ever been in was Chattanooga, which is not too far from Gatlinburg. Fortunately, her area had not been damaged by all the storms. Good to talk to you, Mary Jo!

I'm sorry, I just can't get away from bewailing the increasing use of bad grammar and the AWFUL misspellings which can't be corrected with spell check. Use of a singular verb with a plural subject, and vice versa, is almost a way of life, and practically every picture caption in both local papers uses "laying" instead of the correct "lying." I even read one story recently that misused this verb all the way through.

And then I have read "flied solo" instead of "flew solo" and "had swam" instead of "had swum." Past participles are going the way of adverbs - not used. "Honey, I shrunk the kids" is a misnomer. It should be "shrank the kids." A lesson: I swim today, I swam yesterday, and I have swum many times. Also, I had swum in a pool before swimming in the ocean. Also: sink, sank, have/had sunk; drink, drank, have/had drunk; spring, sprang, have/had sprung.

Had a nice e-mail from my friends Rich and Deb Shook asking that I pass along the idea that, when addressing Christmas cards, each of us sends a card, with a nice note, to: A Recovering American Soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Ave., Washington, D.C. 20307-5001. Of course, the same idea could apply to any military or VA hospital. I'm sure there are people out there who know a lot of these. At any rate, it's a very good thought and a very good thing to do.

We have not been the only ones to know parlous times. These stern words from Cicero, Roman senator and orator, dated 55 B.C.: "The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." Right on! Things don't seem to have changed much in these past 2,000 years or so.

Gwin Mitchell Paden has been a Lodi resident for more than 50 years, and has long been involved with many community organizations and affairs. She is a retired Delta College/Lodi High English teacher, and has worked in advertising, radio, and news reporting. She was an officer in the women's Army Corps during World War II. This is the ninth year that she has been writing this column.

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