Fallen

imageWind and rain recently severed the last major branch off one of our favorite trees. It had a surprising effect on my husband and me. I have since talked others who shared the same experience about losing a tree by their home. Trees are more than tall plants. They are guardians, and keepers of time and memory. They also give us life. I will share my poem in homage to our fallen tree.

Homage to a Companion

Your fallen trunk was kind
in how you laid yourself to grave.
You could have felled your sister as you
crashed, or carved a hole in our roof,
maybe splitting the slate of our terrace,
but you chose a quiet death to grass.

Arriving home we found you already down
like an elephant toppled with its trunk extended,
feet in the air, no breath but what we breathed of you
as our tears fell one by one, like the leaves
that would have come anyway
down with the cold.

It was your time, as the wind and rain knows.
So we gave you a proper service;
recounting the orioles who dangled their nests out of reach,
the red-tailed hawk who screamed from your tower,
and more than a Century ago, the children who ran
around you when you were too young to be climbed.

We spoke of the travelers on the lane beside you
who passed on horseback or buggy, stopping only
for children to roll down the hill and catch up
or knock on the door of the house we now own
with a basket of fresh buttered buns,
as thanks for being a good neighbor.

What do trees mean to you?
            

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20 Responses to Fallen

  1. Darrel says:

    Kinda reminds me of the loss of the giant oak in the yard of Bassett Hall in Williamsburg. I believe that was a significant loss of a tree. Trees do have a way of designating the location of significant events.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      I share that memory Darrel. Was so sorry to see it go. I remember my sons playing in the trunk on a picnic when they were very small. Trees provide great playgrounds for both young and old.

  2. Betsy Taylor says:

    Oh my…this is the grand old oak in your front yard, yes? “These trees shall be my books” said Shakespeare. Yes – very hard to lose such a huge piece of an old and steadfast friend. I hope the tree itself remains for years to come.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Yes. We saved the trunk in honor of all the memories she must have held. I’m glad we have a relatively new replacement coming along so it doesn’t look quite so barren.

  3. john lyden says:

    we have a special tree with a treehouse gracing its lowest branches. What a treasure trove of memories it holds for the children who have passed by–a treehouse is a great focus for outdoor fantasies. I hope the tree stands for ever and future generations can dream of what adventures transpired there.

  4. Jacqui Meyer says:

    Oh, dear Eileen, your poem brought me solace at knowing how we love and respect our beautiful trees. I had not known mine as long as you did yours, but nonetheless, I was still attached to it! I lived with my tree for 3 years as it stood graciously in front of my home, gracing me and previous owners with its 25 years of splendor. Just a month ago, it was felled by the City, after two major branches had broken off in the past year, one almost missing my car upon arrival in my driveway. Suffering with infection and drought, I was advised to have it cut down and replaced with another tree. When the City came to do such, I was devastated and saddened, and I miss it to this day. This is what I wrote to a friend, at the time.

    ” … a 4-person crew arrived about 15 minutes ago and is taking my tree down. My tears are of guilt, sadness and loss as I contemplate how easy it is to kill my tree, any tree, and how much I loved it/them. With their huge machine powering up, one man, with a sharp anvil tool, is lifted up into the height of the tree to cut down its limbs and toss below to another man, who then renders these into dust in seconds as he pushes them into the bowels of its thirsty and powerful machine. This magnificent tree which took 25 years to grow, is being torn down in minutes. In another few, there will only be its stump left as evidence of its life. But I will always remember how it rained with blossom in the spring, provided wonderful shade all summer long, and and graced us with beautiful red leaves in the fall before hibernating and resting until its beautiful cycle started all over again. I remembered this spring, how the same mockingbird couple who last year raised its babies in a nest across the street, brought them back again this year to its branches to feed their offspring or to teach them how to fly. And if I walked outside during this time, they would squawk relentless and swoop down low to force me away in protection of their young. I am glad that I can shed tears for my tree, for as difficult as it is to be sensitive, I know that at a soul level I am connected with life at its deepest level and am filled with gratitude for the wonder of nature.”

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      I so resonate with your tears, Jacqui. Trees are not just quite giants, but are home to many species. They bring us life through the transformation of CO2 into oxygen. I know several others who have been similarly affected by a tree that was torn down in their back yard by forces beyond their own. It is no small thing to pay homage to a tree. My condolences.

  5. So deeply sad to see you lose at least a significant part of a beloved tree; the photo & your beautiful poem brought tears– (you know how I love trees) –I wrote an essay on just this subject for the Christian Science Monitor long ago. I’ll try to unearth it from my files (long before Internet, lol!) & mail it to you. Thanks for these lovely essays; look forward to more. Fondly, Diana

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Would love to see your essay from years ago Diana. We all take shade from trees, and glory in their beauty too.

  6. joan says:

    A beautiful and most thoughtful poem you have written once again, Eileen. i wish I had the beauty of your words. A lover of nature, I will try to capture every opportunity I have to get away, to walk in a forest of trees whose branches reach for the heavens. My heart soars — and the real world drops away.
    It is only on the last day of a visit to San Francisco that I know — as I have known for years – that the perfect ending to my visit is a journey to nearby Muir Woods. It is only here that you can capture the beauty and serenity of being in a cathedral of redwoods that reach for heaven as you gaze upward – something I have done so many times. We find we then will return home with a sense of peace, of quiet, of calm that is so needed these days in the world we live in.

    An old, strong, stately tree that you were blessed to waken to every day gives off a feeling also of reaching for the heavens, but overseeing life for over a hundred years – giving us a sense of awe
    of its roots planted so firmly in the ground that it has had a “forever” quality. An air of hope, perhaps — of being one with the world. I find you fortunate that you had that stalwart tree to look up to for part of its lifetime and most of yours. A touching photo as well.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Ah…Muir woods is a great place to breathe, Joan. How lucky you are to have walked among those tall, communal giants. I’m heartened by how my poem has struck a chord in so many. With every breath we could give thanks to trees.

  7. Beautiful homage to your dear tree-friend. A friend of mine from the Pima Tribe in ARIZONA once told me that his people call trees ‘the standing people.’

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      I love that image, Louise. And i do think of my neighboring tree, the one that is still standing, as our “Mother tree.”

  8. Your thoughtful homage to a tree that was encircled by children and admired by many reminds me of a poetry assignment required by my 6th grade teacher, Ms. Barton . I wrote about the “towering”
    fir tree outside of my bedroom window, humanizing its existence and death ( ! ) brought on by woodcutters !!!! My poem rambled on and on . I, still, wonder what my 6th grade friend
    Lorraine C. penned… Surely, she did not turn herself into a tree, as I did to write the poem !

    I shed a tear when the three weeping willows trees in our backyard were cut; no one else in the family had the same reaction? But, then, again, I shed a tear when our wood bright blue shutters were replaced by a regal black color.

    Trees are beautiful and symbolic . Don’t you love the sequoia tree, the oaks, the dogwoods, the maples, the birches, the magnolias, the firs, the hollies, the palms… on and on…

    Where in the world would writers be, if it weren’t for trees ?

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      I agree with you. I marvel at the diversity of trees, just as I do in humans and species all over the world. Where would we be without diversity?

  9. Phyll says:

    Your poem is lovely. I, too, think of trees as friends and companions. They offer so much
    and ask for so little. They provide shade, swings, colorful leaves (especially now) and pretty canopies. I have a Linden Tree that I call my “storybook” tree as she embraces my house
    and shades our backyard with her shaggy, abundant branches. I’m sorry the wind blew
    down such a majestic branch. She will be missed (and fondly remembered).

    Here’s another poem in honor of your beautiful friend:

    TREES
    By Joyce Kilmer

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
    Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

    A tree that looks at God all day,
    And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

    A tree that may in Summer wear
    A nest of robins in her hair;

    Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
    Who intimately lives with rain.

    Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.

  10. eileenrockefeller says:

    That poem brings back childhood memories Phyll. It was in a treasury of poetry that I used to read every day when in grade school. That was one of my favorites! Thanks for sharing it.

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