Saturday, December 15, 2007

When the Bough Breaks.... Notes from the Winter War Zone and an Ode to a Fallen Tree


This is my street in Oklahoma City six days after the ice storm. Six days later with temperatures hovering well above freezing and look how much ice still remains around the branch. Can you imagine what these limbs looked like before they snapped? In some cases the entire tree toppled.

Heartbreaking, really. I picked this neighborhood for the trees. Many of what I call "grandfather trees" - those graceful, wise old souls -- did not make it. Some of the trees that fell did not belong here; immigrants not made for this world of wind and ice and storm - but we reveled in their exotic beauty, nonetheless.


The power returned to my neighborhood yesterday, after almost six days. As of this morning, 250,000 homes were still without electricity.

1,000,000 trees gone in this city alone, they say. In my heart I hold a candlelight vigil for every single one of them. I know that new life will return in the sunny spaces left behind but I will miss the company and comfort of these graceful, lovely friends.

Ode To a Chestnut on the Ground by Pablo Neruda
From bristly foliage
you fell
complete, polished wood, gleaming mahogany,
as perfect
as a violin newly
born of the treetops,
that falling
offers its sealed-in gifts,
the hidden sweetness
that grew in secret
amid birds and leaves,
a model of form,
kin to wood and flour,
an oval instrument
that holds within it
intact delight, an edible rose.
In the heights you abandoned
the sea-urchin burr
that parted its spines
in the light of the chestnut tree;
through that slit
you glimpsed the world,
birds
bursting with syllables,
starry
dew
below,
the heads of boys
and girls,
grasses stirring restlessly,
smoke rising, rising.
You made your decision,
chestnut, and leaped to earth,
burnished and ready,
firm and smooth
as the small breasts
of the islands of America.
You fell,
you struck
the ground,
but
nothing happened,
the grass
still stirred, the old
chestnut sighed with the mouths
of a forest of trees,
a red leaf of autumn fell,
resolutely, the hours marched on
across the earth.
Because you are
only
a seed,
chestnut tree, autumn, earth,
water, heights, silence
prepared the germ,
the floury density,
the maternal eyelids
that buried will again
open toward the heights
the simple majesty of foliage,
the dark damp plan
of new roots,
the ancient but new dimensions
of another chestnut tree in the earth.
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