Friday’s Passing Fancy: Paean to a Fallen Tree

Walks in Irv and LPK 070

It has been lying there for weeks now, since winter’s windy deluges, limbs immobilized, outspread, sinking into the bottom muck of the pond bit by bit. I stop and watch it, as if it might get up and walk to its previous home and root itself again. This is what I want and feel nearly embarrassed by the depth of my feeling. I have an inordinate love of trees, especially the ancient, giant ones that have grown formidably hearty and sheltered such life for eons, have born weather and thoughtlessness of passersby and welcomed friendly, musical birds to their arms; squirrels who gossip and hide acorns and insects who find sustenance. All without complaint as far as I can know.

It thrived–it lived well and long. So when it went down by the pond I felt how it lay alone but not abandoned amid scattered and dense gatherings of the others, those who had survived and now watched. It is known that trees communicate with one another, know one another; it isn’t such foolishness to think they tend to one another even in death in ways we can only suspect. Humans have an innate desire to put hand to tree, to wrap arms about young and old ones, their rough, dense bark a comfort upon our far more frail skin. I sometimes felt as a child that only trees could easily access my heart and thoughts.Many of us know what it is to make our own nests in and of their branches. We utilize their primal wealth in endless ways. And do we thank the givers of such bounty?

But who really thinks so much of the death of a tree in a park? We gawk , pass on, and some of us return to look again.

Each time I have gone to the park, I’ve wondered over it. I have walked around it’s beauty and studied its stillness, imagine its energy leaving in increments, the water cradling its bulk, life draining to underwater creatures. To the power of nature’s needs. So I have taken pictures. It’s only a downed tree but when a young man climbed onto it I felt a resistance, a displeasure. He wanted me to take one of him standing on it with arms raised in victory. Instead there is just a snapshot of him climbing on it to show how it’s size, and how we are–animals who find an interesting thing and make it ours. I guess I have done the same. I’ve inhabited its place of dying, photographed an immensity that puts me in my place. The elegance of it even now; there is so much more beneath its slow-to-perish bark. What else will find its way there?

I wonder if the young man recalls childhood days when he claimed a spot in the branches of a good, sturdy tree…swung from its resilient branches, felt relief from summer’s heat. Was amazed at the views from the top. I remember and count myself fortunate to have known that happiness. So I praise you, great fallen tree, for your service and your loveliness, the hosting of so many.

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