My interests are like pairs of shoes: I pick up a pair every couple of years or so.

Recently I started getting into semiprecious stones and rare minerals and fossils – mostly because, unlike life and people, stones, minerals and fossils stay put and don’t mess with your mind.

My interest in this peculiar area was cemented even further after I discovered that there is a large and pretty popular dealer in Blue Springs who sells these items (look for a story in early summer).

Try looking at a slice of petrified wood or a dry tuft of woolly mammoth hair and I dare you to say that it’s not in the least bit interesting.

So lately I’ve become interested in trees – again because, unlike life and people, they stay put and don’t mess with your mind. Aside from the fact that they produce oxygen, trees, to me, satisfy an inner need of mine that absolutely demands and respects natural expression of appearance and form.

Something genuine and without ill-desire.

So I was happy to see that Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs is planning on celebrating Missouri Arbor Day on Friday and Saturday. True to form, the staff at the nature center has something special planned for the first 200 families who arrive each day: they can choose between bur oak and redbud seedlings, two prominent specimens that dominate what, for me, is the best thing about Blue Springs.

Families can come out Friday beginning at 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., as they can again on Saturday during the same times. While no major events are planned for those two days, staff at the center said visiting the Missouri Department of Conservation area on Missouri Arbor Day simply heightens one’s awareness about the importance of trees in all their uses, practical and not.

Reservations for the two-day event at the center are required by Friday (which puts you in the running for the seedlings). You can call the center at 816-228-3766.

Thinking about trees also got me thinking about the emerald ash borer problem, which has quickly become a threat to millions of trees in the United States.

Paul Whitsell, a resource forester with Burr Oak, said the pernicious beetle, which destroys mainly ash trees, has not appeared in the Kansas City area.

“It could be here shortly, though,” Whitsell said.

Just last October, hundreds of trees at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis were affected by the beetles, which, unlike semiprecious stones and trees, don’t stay put and do mess with your mind.

“But it’s hard to detect,” Whitsell said, adding that it’s important for cities throughout the nation to take inventory of their trees. “And once they’re here, they’re here.”

Whitsell continued:

“There are more concentrations of ash trees in cities than there are in habitats like Burr Oak, and that’s why we’re pushing more and more for cities to take inventory of what they have,” he said.

The beetles travel mainly via firewood. Campers arrive at large state and/or private campgrounds and burn wood they brought with them, which is prohibited in most, if not all, cases.

Beetles and campers – both of which, unlike precious stones and trees, don’t stay put and do mess with your mind.

Do you see a running theme here?

So celebrate Arbor Day by picking up a tree. The most popular trees for Zone 6 (that is, Missouri) include Colorado blue spruce, white pine, sugar maple, Japanese red maple, smoketree, quaking aspen, red dogwood and prairiefire flowering crab.


Art Show results

I’d be remiss if I didn’t follow up on the winners of the 2011 Blue Springs Annual Fine Art Show and Blue Springs Student Art Show, which was held last weekend at Vesper Hall.

The Fine Art Show’s four Best of Show winners and the first place winners from each category are on display at Blue Springs City Hall until April 15.

Here are a selection of winners:

Blue Springs Student Art Show
Best of Show – Courtney Bender, Blue Springs High School
Sponsors’ Choice – Gretchen Kuccera, Blue Springs South High School  
People’s Choice – Alaina Aylward, Freshman Center

Blue Springs High School
1st Place – Monique Martinez
2nd Place – Patricia Graham
3rd Place – Courtney Bender, Jake Britt and Sarah Brammer

Blue Springs South High School
1st Place – Kristine Johnson
2nd Place – Gretchen Kuccera
3rd Place – Matt Ivey

Valley View High School
1st Place – Landen Peebles
2nd Place – Landen Peebles
3rd Place – Leanna Meyers

Freshman Center
1st Place – Alaina Aylward
2nd Place – Jalil Salaam
3rd Place – Andrea Bright

Blue Springs 2010 Fine Art Show

Best of Show Award
1st Place – John Ulett, “Peace”
2nd Place – Ron Hoyle, “Getting High”
3rd Place – Don Helverson, Untitled
Photography – Wanda Davenport, “Beautiful Bear”

People’s Choice Award
Art – Sherry McConnell-Halfast, “Pink Rose”         
Photography – Carolyn Fox, “In a Heartbeat”

A complete list can be viewed at Vesper Hall.