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.

8 comments:

Rising Rainbow said...

We had ice storms here a few years back and I remember how devastating it was to the trees and brush. Ours was nothing next to what happened to you there. So very sad. Glad that you finally have your power back.

Dawn-Enigma Artist said...

Wow. The news coverage isn't even coming close to telling all.

So many trees. How sad.

Crayons said...

That poem! I would like to read it in Spanish to hear what he does with the vowels. The image of eyes and mouth and breast and canopy make me think of trees that I know. The telling in the second person prevents me from thinking of a tree as an object.

You did a beautiful hommage to the fallen trees. I lived through that once in 1974. The sound of limbs crashing was just heart-wrenching.

I believe you are a druid at heart.

kate said...

Your photographs took me back to an ice storm in the late 1990s when I lived in Ottawa ON. It was hard to see all the tree damage ...

I agree with you about the Omnivore's Dilemma - it is another one of Michael Pollan's thought-provoking books. The problem with living in this climate is that most of our produce comes from California or South America for much of the year.

The Pablo Neruda poem was wonderful to read ... 'as perfect as a violin newly born of the treetops'. What a beautiful image. It will make me look at my vio in a different way.

beetohunny said...

Reminds me of after the hurricanes in NC. Glad you are safe. Beautiful ode to the trees. Darn, you're good!

Lak said...

We are in a "new" neighborhood, so not so many trees down where we live. The elms in our front yard doubled down with the ice, but snapped back up as the temperatures started rising again. Slower-growing trees fared better, mostly.

T.R. said...

Glad your canopy is intact Lak. It was the indigenous trees that fared the best - most oaks unscathed. Another testimony to landscaping and enhancing your yard with native species. The Bradford pear is truly the scourge of the Oklahoma landscape.

Gale Rainwater said...

Man this was one of the worst ice storms in OK history. I'm Glad your throught it.

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