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A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.It's commentary on the unique people, wildlife, and environment of our coastal region.A Cape Cod Notebook commentators include:Robert Finch, a nature writer living in Wellfleet who created, 'A Cape Cod Notebook.' It won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

You Can't Always Choose What Interests You

Robert Finch

Our mimosa tree has gained true stature this year. Some twelve years ago I hastily planted it in our back yard as a two-foot sprout, not really expecting it to live. Now its emerald canopy is over fifteen feet in height and almost triple that in breadth. From our deck it looks like a small green sea. 

In fact the movements of its long, thin, articulated limbs have the same coordinated complexity of surf on rocky shores. The larger branches rock steadily like strong ocean currents. The smaller branches and twigs circle around one another like the swirling movement of the inner ocean currents around rocks, while the tree’s delicate feathered leaflets flutter like shallow froth washing over exposed reefs.       

In its entrancing glory the mimosa teaches me that you can’t choose what you find interesting.  Each day a thousand wounds and cuts assault me, whether it’s the latest mass shooting at a mall, a concert, or a school; the latest demagogic rants from Our Leader of the Free World; the perpetual and unameleorable wars in the Middle East; the latest manifestations of our slowly-dying planet; even the increasing signs of my own bodily decrepitude. And all of it, of course, now underlain by an unprecedented world-wide pandemic.

But despite these urgent private and public issues, I find my attention turns again and again to the almost miraculous expanses of the mimosa tree now reaching toward our deck. As I said, it seems to have reached a new stage of development, though it’s something more than increased size.  It’s more of a change in character. It’s as if something once delicate and tentative, innocent and vulnerable, poignant in its loveliness and restraint, has, while I was not looking, become something confident, aggressive, strong, and independent – no longer needing me to acknowledge or confirm its extraordinary qualities.

Its tens of thousands of delicate feathered leaves dance some wild Dionysian dance in the sultry, storm-fed afternoon swells and gusts. Its various elements seem not parts of one organism, but separate creatures bound only by the silent music of their dance.

Over the past few days the green canopy has been decorated with clusters of frothy, pink white blossoms. A hummingbird, seduced by artificial concentrations of sugar, spends most of her time at our sugar feeder instead of at the natural abundance of blossoms beside her – but who ever said birds have discriminating palates?  The mimosa is a giant daylily. At dusk, with the declining sun, its delicate leaflets wilt into thin, flaccid tubes, only to rise and spread again with the dawn into essence and glory.

So this soiled world tries to claim my attention, like a neutered eunuch, but to no avail.  The mimosa’s green glory blots out, for the moment at least, all the toxic news of the day, claims my attention, and charms me with its carefree loveliness.

Seen from our elevated deck, the green canopy of the mimosa is not so much a tree as a formal garden in some Middle Eastern monarch’s courtyard. Its feathered branches dip and rise slowly, rhythmically, like enormous ostrich plumes. They ask me to come and sit beneath them.

Robert Finch is a nature writer living in Wellfleet. 'A Cape Cod Notebook' won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.