When Great Trees Fall…..

tree-1689092_1920When researching quotes for “Memories of Trees,” my last post, I came upon this poem by Maya Angelou, one of my favorite poets. Her words contain such strength, power, & truth.  When reading this, I thought about this same tree in my poem and my father who past away this last May.

WHEN GREAT TREES FALL

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
― Maya Angelou

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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