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