Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When The Bough Breaks (or Godspeed, Sweet Poetess)

Twin maples stand some thirty feet apart back maybe twenty feet or so from our house.  I've mentioned them before.

I love them.

It is a great fear of mine that they will someday crumple under a heavy Spring snow or run out of room and light to flourish.  The boys have grown up under them, sheltered in their cool shade, swinging from one branch, pulling at another.

They have seen the starkness of black, late evening shadows thrown down by their branches on a blanket of purple snow.

They have laughed as silly, perplexing, inexplicably perfect little light green helicopters rained down as they tried to catch them in their toddler hands.

They have thrown and kicked and danced and screamed and broken bones and scraped and grass-stained knees under their sweet yellow, red, green, brown caring leaves.  These two trees are nurturers, to be sure.

So why then, when I looked out the kitchen window one morning a while back, was I annoyed when I saw that the one on the right had lost a great branch?  Why didn't I scream out for that tree, rushing to her aid immediately, when I saw what the overnight storm had done?  Why didn't I tremble at the wind that could produce such violence or marvel at the resilience of the tree brave enough to lose a limb and soldier triumphantly on?

Well, because there was a giant-ass limb hanging precariously from a tree in our yard I'm lazy, mostly.  I saw work and time and danger and and hassle.  I saw it as a problem, a burden, a drag.

Here is what the boys saw:

A branch fort underneath the "climbing tree."  As quickly as I could cut off the branches with my tired loppers, they scurried the pieces away, beaver-like, awkwardly dragging them and wrestling them into place and making a small spot for themselves under the familiar leaves.

I'd forgotten.  Forgotten my boyhood.  Forgotten my manhood.  Forgotten that it is all one long, frequently interrupted, childhood.  Forgotten that I am a child and that broken branches are a gift, broken branches are forever, leaned against a tree, made into a shelter, woven into a memory.

A couple of mornings later I went out to clean it all up.  The leaves were no longer vibrant and they drooped and sighed against each other.  This time I remembered, I listened to my own childness and made a collection of sticks and pretend swords and who-knows-what with my handsaw and loppers:

There are three long poles that simply thrilled them there at the top.  I also let them go through the pile to find their own branch and cut it per their instructions:

Nick's is on the left, a hand tool and weapon; Zack's is more a bow or staff.

Believe me, as summer continues, these sticks will vex both me and my tractor.  Should I curse them as I get off the tractor to move them, or should I walk the yard before I mow, calling to them from my own childhood, calling them to come play, calling them to be a part of the one memory, our collective memory - our infinite, essential childhood?


A poetess died today. But that is impossible because a poem never dies. We have lost a powerful and devoted voice of hope, yes, but that voice will sing on inspiring and teaching for generation to come.

Maya Angelou has died and for the first time in my memory I can see nothing else but the “angel” in her name.

I could never list the names of the all the writers who have inspired me over the years, shaped my voice, and made me expect more from the words I use and read, but if I did, her name would be in gold. I looked up a bibliography for her and realized I had read nearly all her beautiful books. I do not recall ever seeking them out but, they found me, as great words will, seeking a place where they could nurture me.

Whenever I heard her read I thought how proud the words seemed to be included, how she savored them all, and how, together, they went beyond their meaning, transcendent. I am sad for words today, they must be also mourning their beautiful caring champion.

So where to go now, right now. I believe I'll go on with what I had already planned. I could write on poetry for days and never make a point or I could simply say goodbye and Godspeed sweet poet, your journey has brightened mine and helped me to see it more clearly and deeply.

We are all telling the same story, I fiercely believe that.  My boys tell me that story.  Maya Angelou will always be telling that story.  I will continue to, and, I will listen as you tell it.

An exploding can that was fortunately not in Marci's backseat:

It was a hulluva mess, but, really, I didn't mind.  The boys thought it was "hilarious" and, honestly, so did I...

As always, I thank you for coming around my way again.  There's a lot to think about in this life, I appreciate you thinking along with me here on my journey.


  1. We always should be willing to tell the story that lies within. Keep telling it.

  2. I find myself forgetting my childhood way too often. And you're right, a poem never dies, but she will be greatly missed.

  3. Very nice Bill! Your email subscription widget is working great BTW!

    1. Thanks, John, you'd know. I appreciate the visit.