Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
I was ten years old and moving into the seventh home I would have lived in. A house on the corner for my family of five to fill; a house that would signify the end of our constant departures as my dad had finally retired from the military. Showcased front and center, a thin tree that leaned slightly to the left but two wooden stakes attempted to hold the tree straight. A serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea). Isolated by a circle of mulch and dirt, it stood far from the other plants in front of our house. I tilted my head and squinted my eyes to the left to get a better view. The tree was not much taller than me, its trunk not much wider than my arm. It was dark and skinny: my mom suggested that it looked like it was struck by lightning. I stuck out my leg to the trunk, pushing it to stand a little straighter.
I remember starting at a new elementary school in the middle of the school year. Feet planted on the concrete beside my teacher in front of my new class, I looked out to them with a blank stare. I distinctly recall standing with my legs twisted and watching them stare back at me as I struggled to introduce myself. I walked home that day to be welcomed by the tree. It started to blend in with the landscape of my house, and I stopped noticing its odd features. The tree was simply there, existing in my front yard. It continued to look the same: lacking leaves, dark bark, and scrawny. Surprisingly enough, it began to stand straighter.
As I continued to live in this house on the corner, I stopped giving any thoughts about the serviceberry. I had made my own group of friends and didn’t spend much time watching the tree. My tranquil moments outside were replaced with adventures to the mall with my friends. My parents decided to have the front of our house remodeled but left the tree untouched. I stood in front of my house and focused on how it looked all together with the changes. I noticed that the tree, even with being untouched, looked quite different from when we first moved in. The tree stood taller and straighter, no longer needing the two stakes to hold it up; it was branching out and growing leaves. It grew brighter and stood out against the grey paint of my home. There was no need to tilt my head to see it any clearer.
I never paid too much attention to the tree because I always saw it as just a tree, a feature of the latest house that I would move into. I saw the tree in the brief moments that I would pause and focus on the life happening around me. I took photos in front of the tree with my brothers before I left for college. The tree was tall and reached out towards the world.
Author: Heather Yabut. Heather is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, majoring in Molecular Environmental Biology. She is a world-class breakdancer, and she enjoys eating chicken wings in her free time.
Read about Lewis and Clark eating serviceberries on their expedition here.