Ancient Tree Wisdom
I reach my arms around the trunk, but it is so vast that my hands come no where near to touching. The wood is smooth and cool, a soft grey that stretches far above my head. Tipping back my chin, my eyes seek the top and find it so far away that it is merely a mist of distant lime flavored light.
When I used to draw trees, in those long days of winter white, the trunks were always brown. This was before crayons became quite so literate; before tan, tumbleweed, burnt sienna, raw sienna, bittersweet, mahogany, goldenrod, indian red, and sepia. My tree trunks were just brown; straight brown wax trunks with round green tops. A blank piece of paper was a treasure not often obtained in those days; I drew on the back of extra college exams, handouts, maps; forests of two-tone trees growing wild on the flip side of geographical academia.
This trunk is not brown, nor is it rough, rugged or raspy. It is the softest of greys; dove grey, silver, slate, iron, pearl, smoke, timber wolf; and it is smooth as porcelain against my cheek. The leaves, an impossible distance away, are, of course, not just green. The sun washes through them like Tiffany; a waving stained glass sea of screaming shamrock, magic mint, elegant emerald, granny smith apple, olive, jade jewel, and, yes, forest-green.
Pressed tightly against the tree, my toes are turned out; my arms, full of the wide trunk, are stretched in a perfect arch. I smile, standing in the silent wood in an impeccable Second Ballet Position, this huge grey partner in my arms. Shall we dance? What kind of dance would a two-hundred-fifty-year-old tree prefer? A Minuet? A Gavotte? Or something wilder and more earthy?
Two-hundred-fifty-years ago my country did not exist, and yet this titan was already growing here. What could it tell me, if I knew how to listen? What truths of life could it impart? What weighty words would it say?
Would it speak of the deep, slow-growing mysteries that only green things know? With its roots pressed to the breast of this land of magic, would it remember echos of druids who had worshiped here when the forest green was sacred and living things divine? Could it give me, child of a younger land, a taste of its ancient memory; the intuition and intelligence of its timeworn understanding?
I close my eyes, drop my forehead against the grey satin sheath. "I am a weaver of words, Ancient One; a minstrel of a later day; a rhymeless bard of imagery and imagination. I am a dancer of dreams, Venerable Spirit; an illusionist of air castles and rainbows; a pilot of myth. I am a scribe of memory; a aspirant of inspiration; the stareyed child of the Muse." I lift my eyes and tighten my arms. "Ah, Aged Friend," I sigh. "I am a poet."
Then I can't help smiling, thinking of Joyce Kilmer's very rhyming rhyme. And so I whisper, "Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree." And far away, up against the verdant tossing canape, I hear the breath of a breeze, or the whoosh of the wind, or the beginnings of . . .laughter? Laughter?
Yes. Undeniably. Laughter. I feel it under my fingers vibrating through the thick grey skin, ripples and undulations of delight. I look up to find the massive limbs are shaking, and all the leaves of screaming shamrock, magic mint, elegant emerald, granny smith apple, olive, jade jewel, and, yes, yes indeed, forest-green, are quivering in a flurry of mirth.
It ends as quickly as it started, the mighty tree gives a deep blithe sigh and settles back to silence. With my mouth still open, I step back and consider this distinguished ancient creature. I walk slowly around the massive trunk, contemplating the significance of knowledge, the import of guidance, the message of age.
Suddenly, I wrap my arms around her once again and give a tight squeeze. "Ah! Here is to levity, my friend!" I pat the now silent and taciturn grey bark with both hands, "Here is to exultation, to celebration, to revels, to laughter and love!"
As I walk back on the gravel path, toward the small wooden bridge, my foot steps are inclined to skip. I press my hands carefully over my heart, jubilantly sealing in some weighty wisdom, learned from the young heart of an ancient tree. Edwina Peterson Cross