Feature Story

Ode to an Old Tree

An Old Tree

Ode to an Old Tree

Spring arrived unannounced as you slept in your tall, lanky gauntness. The raucous songbirds returned energized from their southern journey to rest in your dry branches. They repeatedly tried to rouse you from your slumber with sweet repertoires of morning and evening ragas, but you slept on.

Your fellow trees have sprouted small, green, leaf buds still curled tightly against the cold night's winds. They must have been aware that their old friend has yet to stir. In the tender, new grasses small yellow flowers made their way up from their Orphean underworld and began to lean toward the sun. Even a few, pale butterflies danced in the warm breezes. And still no sign of life from you.

Now it's mid-May and life on these few acres has burst into a zillion different greens, each responding to the same warm sunlight. You've shaded this hillside the past 80 or 90 springs and now in the midst of this happy fecundity when the earth is filled with rebirth, you stand naked, like an embarrassing dream where you left home one morning and arrived at work only to find that you hadn't dressed at all. Completely naked.

But there's no embarrassment in death, life just goes on without you. Until someone decides that your appalling nakedness is too much to bear and they'll hire a crew of over-worked men who are quick to anger who will hoist themselves up in your bony arms that still silently point at the blue sky and dismember you until only your ample trunk is left standing. Then in three, swift cuts, your once lofty figure will be reduced to the height of the uncut grasses.

Among the thousands of unseen dead in this vast, hillside cemetery, I mourn for you now because I remember, a few seasons ago, when you were alive. Life will go on in the small ecosphere that you reigned over as a beloved monarch, but with fewer bird songs, less shade for the small creatures that depended on it, and a severed connection with the past.

© Yana Edwin Murphy 5/13/12

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