My favorite trees are the Live Oak and the Eucalyptus tree. In Coastal California, the landscape is often dominated by one of three types of trees -- these two, plus the fir tree. There are 600 or so species of Eucalyptus trees, but the ones I like best are the ones that grew up around my childhood home -- the "ghost gums," called that because of their white trunks. These are tall, willowy trees with long, thin, fingerlike leaves that make a shhhshhhhing sound in the breeze. Their menthol scent is rich and heavy. Indigenous to Australia, they were happy transplants in the California soil; Abbot Kinney -- a famous Los Angeleno from the 1800s -- planted thousands of them in the Los Angeles basin. He was obsessed with these trees, as I am, and even wrote a book called -- no surprise -- EUCALYPTUS in 1895.
The most soothing sight -- besides the ocean -- I could find as a child was the one I had from my bedroom window of the eucalyptus trees on our back slope. I loved to watch them bend and sway against the blue sky. At certain times of the year, they would shed their bark in long strips. I loved to peel the bark, to see the smooth soft white trunk underneath. Sometimes, I peeled the tree's skin before it was ready to come off on its own. Then, underneath, the trunk was a cold, bright green. I remember feeling sad and sorry because I had hurt the eucalyptus by peeling its skin away too soon.