Zacchaeus

Plants are pretty big in my family. Becca and Dad are the serious ones. I'm not as accomplished. My knowledge is limited mostly to common shrubs and small trees, vegetable and fruit plants, and garden flowers. I can identify brightly colored blossoms, but Becca and Dad look at slight differences in physical features and come up with a name.

The only plant I could identify that way was a sycamore tree. On Sundays in the summer, we'd walk to church. One morning in Sunday School, I learned about Zacchaeus the tax collector in Jericho, reviled as an agent of the Roman Empire. When Jesus came to visit Jericho, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree in order to catch a glimpse of him through the crowd. On our way home that day, Dad pointed out a huge tree along the sidewalk. It had coarse leaves, lobed and pointed, and grayish bark peeling away in uneven flakes.

From then on, I could spot a Sycamore.

As I learned our neighborhood in Queens, I noticed a particular spot near the train. Several massive trees break and buckle the sidewalk on either side of the street. Their branches curl over the street and cast crystalline shadows over the asphalt.