Old Cherry

I’m fortunate to live in a neighborhood that’s surrounded by woods and a lake. The downside of living in the woods, however, is losing those trees. Our neighborhood lost hundreds of trees about 15 years ago during some powerful straight line winds. We were lucky that only a couple of standing dead trees fell on our property during that storm, and the surviving trees in the neighborhood have filled in the gaps in the ensuing years.

But many of our trees are aging, and this week we had to have two taken down. One was a huge red oak that was likely two hundred years old. Its crown towered over our roof, and it had started to lean precariously. Carpenter ants and other critters had hollowed out the base of the trunk (fun fact that I learned from an arborist: if you hammer on a trunk you can hear the difference between solid and hollow wood.) I knew it had to come down, but it still felt like a huge loss. I’ve looked at that tree every morning for the past 20 years, and written about many animals that inhabited it.

The other tree was a 100-foot tall cherry that had lost a huge limb about a month ago, and had a large split between the two remaining trunks. Downy woodpeckers had worked the cherry’s broken stubs for many years. This summer I watched a pileated woodpecker drumming near the tree’s top.

So it’s not surprising that when I thought about this month’s challenge on Today’s Little Ditty, my mind turned to old trees. Carol Hinz, Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, challenged writers to write a poem that finds beauty in something that is not usually considered beautiful. Several of our trees fit the bill.

Old Cherry

You stand in spring
barely a bud growing
on tired branches.
Woodpecker tests your trunk, tat-a-tat,
chipping sweet, soft wood.

This old cherry still stands near our house.

Your roots search
for sustenance in summer drought.
Patches of bark slough off your trunk.
Beetles inscribe your weathered wood
with tales of their youth.

Tattered leaves wither and drop
as summer turns to fall.
You rest, naked against the gray sky.
Rain seeps into ancient scars
carrying spores of rot close to your heart.

Winter covers your crown.
Ice encases each sparkling twig.
Creaking, an old limb
cracks and breaks,
thumping on frozen ground.

Lighter, you wait for snowmelt
and endure.
–©Buffy Silverman

Hoping you had a joyful Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for generous and supportive poetry pals in the Poetry Friday community–Carol has today’s Poetry Friday roundup.

21 thoughts on “Old Cherry

  1. Violet N.

    Aww, I feel your sadness for the loss of those trees, like dear friends. I love your close observation of nature in and around them… they appreciated, and you have your poems and other writings to prove it.

    Reply
  2. Kay Jernigan McGriff

    Lovely poem–I feel the same way when an old tree must come down (like the two in our front yard that we would like to remove before they possibly remove part of our roof), but my forester husband reminds me that the forest will rebound and grow even stronger even when trees are cut. My head knows it, but my heart thinks of trees (at least some of them) as old friends.

    Reply
  3. Kate

    Lovely poem Buffy. If you have a scrap of that cherry wood, I’d like to try to make something for you out of it. Doesn’t mean I can, but I’d like to try.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      Dang, Kate. I thought about saving a few logs, and then thought we wouldn’t do anything with them. The guy who took down the trees found a local person who splits the wood and donates it.

      Reply
  4. Karen Eastlund

    I grew up on the prairie, but my home had beautiful trees around it. Now I can hardly live without trees, so I appreciate your feelings. Thanks for this lovely poem, and perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing that others feel the same.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      Thanks Karen. We still have lots of trees around–and I’m guessing the two other large oaks that grew with the one that was taken down will soon fill in the opening. But it does still astonish me to look out and not see that one.

      Reply
  5. Linda Mitchell

    Awwwwwwwwwww, that sweet ole tree. I’m sorry it had to come down. We see trees in their beautiful robes and naked as your poem describes. I would love to know what this tree’s response is to leaving you now after twenty years. It’s such a conversation we have with trees….isn’t it? I’m so glad you caught the beauty of this. The poem is perfect for this month’s challenge.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      Thanks Linda. I think the cherry was at the end of its life and would have come down on its own. But the oak? Maybe would have stood another 50 years–or maybe would have fallen on our house in a big wind.

      Reply
  6. Michelle Kogan

    Beautiful melancholic tribute to your old Cherry tree Buffy, so sorry that the end has come for her. I’m glad you have many fond memories of the critters that she sustained. (I think the cherry was a she.) Perhaps more poems will still flow from your memories. I feel a very strong connection with trees myself. Thanks for sharing your poem!

    Reply
  7. Linda Baie

    Oh Buffy, such a pretty tree and ode to it. I love your talking about it through the year. I didn’t know that cherry trees could grow to such an age. I have an old cottonwood that was part of the reason I bought my home now and I have it checked and cared for every year hoping it will continue to be strong. Thanks for sharing about the one you lost also. Did you keep some of the wood for creating something from it?

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      The arborist who checked the trees before we decided to take them down was pretty surprised by the size of the cherry–probably 100 feet tall. Black cherries usually come down before they reach that size, and this one was starting to come down on its own. I thought about keeping some wood (and now I wish I had!)

      Reply
  8. Irene Latham

    Buffy, I can so relate to the grief of losing a beloved tree! It will live on in this poem, and like you said, will provide an opportunity for new trees. Like Mary Lee, I have enjoyed THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES. Also WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate. Lots of tree love these days! xo

    Reply
  9. Mary Lee Hahn

    I just finished listening to THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES (for the second time). Your poem, like Wohlleben’s book, helps us, with our animal perspective, to understand the long slow life of a tree.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      I’m guessing that book was in my subconscious while I wrote this poem. I certainly thought about it when we were deciding to take the trees down. Especially with the red oak, because it was growing with two other huge red oaks (which were not hollowed out, and not yet leaning over the roof.) I wonder what’s being communicated underground between their enmeshed roots.

      Reply

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