The Memories of Trees

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“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.”  Henry Ford

We burn wood for heat during the chilly months in Oregon.  There is a shiny red wood stove in the middle of our kitchen that, as I write, has a fire that is burning bright, warming our home.  Stacks of cordwood are out by the barn,  Some wood we cut and split ourselves, other we have delivered.

During my years in Alaska, I developed an appreciation of firewood.  I loved the fall ritual of taking the truck out on frosty days with chainsaw and axe.  Having stacks of wood in the yard is a bank account of sorts.  I feel secure when there is at least 2 cords for the winter in the yard

A couple of years ago we noticed that the old walnut trees on our property were showing signs of rot and becoming a hazard.  I mourned when they were taken down.  Onewood-1246276_1920 especially held many memories. The tree was a shady oasis that was we enjoyed in the hot summer months.  It was, split, stacked and became cordwood that kept us warm for two winters- its second gift to us.

This poem is for that tree…

 

A TREE MEMORY

The fire burned hot

the memories of the stately tree wafting skyward

up through the chimney

to eternity

A century of shade and thousands of nuts

gathered by humans, squirrels & birds

is no longer

 

Farmers planted the tree

an English walnut grafted onto black walnut rootstock

finally yielded to its dark cousin

It stood the comings and goings

of several families

including my own

 

On lazy summer afternoons

my little boy would swing on a tire

suspended on a rope from a thick limb,

or splash in a blue plastic wading pool

Under its drooping canopy

 

Its fate?

the rot of aging

turned asset to hazard

The tree tumbled earthward to the whine of a chainsaw

 

What remained?

A huge stump and stacks of firewood

waiting to feed the woodstove

 

After two years my sorrow has dissipated

Two young saplings replaced the tree

Light fills the spot where it once stood

I stand close to the fire on cold winter days

reveling in its warmth

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Crow Vision

flock-2574265_1920For the 24 years I have lived on my tiny farm in rural Oregon, I have witnessed a gathering of crows in the Eastern sky late in the days of the warmer months.  They are always flying South, as with some purpose.  Sadly, the woodland hills have been stripped in recent years for vineyards, so the nightly event has gotten smaller.  I’ve always wondered where they go and what mischief they might be up to.  Finally, I’ve gotten around to write about it.

THE CROWS COME AT SUNSET

From all corners of the sky

Black silhouettes winging together as a noisy flock

On their way to their secret destination

Which I long to know

 

I imagine they are sent from the spirit world

Spies in the sleek bodies of birds

Black as shiny coal

From beak to tail

 

They find their nightly roost

In the high branches of leafy trees

An avian barroom full of raucous cawing and flapping of wings

As they share the events of their day

 

The news comes as far as the cold lands of the Far North

To the dry, pastel arroyos of the Southwest

all the way to the crowded cities of the East

Stories they observed from the world of humans

Comedies born from intelligence gone bad

 

The jokes and stories are centuries old

recycled with different characters

Told with such squawking hilarity

That feathers loosen in the crows’ wild animations

And float earthward beneath the branches

 

The party goes on as the sky turns dusky to dark

Stars slowly appear

The birds’ black eyes grow heavy and their voices silent

Then all that can be heard is the sound of crow breathing

And the song of crickets that welcome the night

 

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A screenprint I made in 1994 “Crows at Sunset”

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m 64

the-beatles-509069_1920It was 1967.  I was 14 years old and a  freshman in high school.  The Beatles had come out with their latest album “Yellow Submarine.”  Mixed in amongst other memorable songs was this one…

“When I’m Sixty Four”

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

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