These birch trees retain beauty even though surrounded by Alaska’s largest city. Aki, only knowing the Southeast rain forest, has never lifted her leg to a paper birch. Even if she had walked many times through birch woods, the little poodle mix wouldn’t miss their parchment like bark, rough to the touch, that can peel back to a paper thin strip that glows when backlit by low angled sunlight. She might long for the perfume smoke of  burning birch wood. I do.

P1130170Walking on a summer evening among birch and their taller cousin the aspen on trails crisscrossing the University of Alaska campus, I hear barking dogs, laughing children, the chimes of a clock tower, airplane noise, bicycle tires skidding on gravel, conversation carried out without reference to the birch. No one appears to notice the yellow green leaves dance under blue skies or the puzzle of cast shadows on the paths they walk. I wish I was so rich in birch trees, blue skies, and sun.

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