Tree of Life

I have ambivalent feelings about this tree. On the one hand, I never park under it, for fear that I would return to find my car crushed. On the other hand, it is the most powerful and heart-lifting tree in our neighborhood, with its fantastically sculpted trunk and enormous, light-filled crown, simultaneously shimmering and shady, undoubtedly home to innumerable beetles, birds, and squirrels.

After a recent summer thunderstorm, I went to check it out. There it stood, serene as ever, despite its permanent streetward slant. It’s a variety of maple (to find out what kind we’ll have to check Melanie Choukas-Bradley’s wonderful City of Trees), although it has the ancient, stalwart feel of an oak, as if it arose here here long before any of our houses.

Below, a tree poem for Sunday.


A Final Affection

I love the accomplishments of trees,
How they try to restrain great storms
And pacify the very worms that eat them.
Even their deaths seem to be considered.
I fear for trees, loving them so much.
I am nervous about each scar on bark,
Each leaf that browns. I want to
Lie in their crotches and sigh,
Whisper of sun and rains to come.
Sometimes on summer evenings I step
Out of my house to look at trees
Propping darkness up to the silence.
When I die I want to slant up
Through those trunks so slowly
I will see each rib of bark, each whorl;
Up through the canopy, the subtle veins
And lobes touching me with final affection;
Then to hover above and look down
One last time on the rich upliftings,
The circle that loves the sun and moon,
To see at last what held the darkness up.

—Paul Zimmer