Perhaps can is the wrong word here…  Maybe I meant to say should.
A crew of tree guys has been working in our cul-de-sac since sun-up to trim pesky branches away from the power lines, the air vibrating with the buzz of chainsaws, the rasp of rakes, the chunkety-chunking of the wood chipper.  The big ash tree in our front yard is barely hanging on,
a victim of the dreaded ash borer.  During high winds or heavy rain, he litters the roof, lawn, and driveway with all the brittle, hollow branches that have succumbed since the last storm.  Cutting him down would be the prudent thing to do, and we have gotten an estimate, but foisting euthanasia on any living thing is hard for me.  His lowest branch is still sturdy enough to support our Amish swing.  He leafs out in springtime and his canopy, albeit haphazard, converts carbon dioxide into oxygen, gives shade, and shelters the birds and squirrels we so love to watch.  His roots are active as well; every year or two, they sneak through the hairline crack in the sewer tile, go gangbusters, and surprise us with a back-up à la commode.  How does one justify killing something with so much joie de vivre?  When he does eventually come down, I would like
to keep one thick round from the stump for posterity, preserved with
a coat of polyurethane.  With my finger, I’ll trace the rings that tell his life story, scan the pages of his colorful and meticulously kept journal.


Hidden in the rings of trees
a life of secrets never told
Densely rippled diaries
hidden in the rings of trees
Circumferential histories
inscribed in umber, red and gold
Hidden in the rings of trees,
a life of secrets never told

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23 thoughts on “ONLY GOD CAN UN-MAKE A TREE

  1. chevvy8 October 8, 2017 / 6:09 am

    A profound way of looking at a tree Joan but of course we all keep secrets that determine our destiny. Still,I wonder how much of our destiny is ours to choose and how much beyond our control. Is it still destiny if we can control it? I suppose these are more rhetorical questions. Maybe I believe in holding on to what serves you and where you can. letting things go for the new to come in. Lovely poem though. I can appreciate your openness of heart to preserve and honour the good that has come out of a life.😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 11:23 am

      Thanks, Chevvy. So often, we think we know all about a life when what we really see is just the tip of the iceberg. Fear has to die, barriers have to come down before we can get inside, see what lies deeper, appreciate the experiences that have shaped and formed a person. Some secrets are deliberately kept, but others remain in the dark simply because no one has ever asked. As for destiny, I think it follows its own path. What is within our control is to fight it or embrace it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • chevvy8 October 8, 2017 / 11:34 am

        “No one has ever asked” I’m fascinated by that phrase. I guess there are those dying for someone to ask and then there are those who keep their earphones on so that you dare not ask.😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 12:24 pm

        I think deep down, we want to tell and we wish someone would ask. But the questioner is afraid of being too forward, pushy, impolite. And the answerer is afraid of his own vulnerability, what the other person would think of him if he were to expose himself. These fears are well-founded; society is more judgmental than ever. Personally, I’ve found that when I ask a tough question, the person not only answers it honestly but is happy, or even relieved, to get it out in the open. Earphones would be an indication to me that the person is not yet ready to discuss it. Leave them alone and eventually they will come around. If we are talking about a teenager, the wait may be a long one… ten or twenty years. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • chevvy8 October 8, 2017 / 12:26 pm

        You are right Joan. I’ve sent you a mail and ask away.😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter Klopp October 8, 2017 / 8:41 am

    You are amazing in your skill of turning (I should rather say condensing) an event that touched your heart into a beautiful poem, Joan. Well done! Trimming and cutting down an urban tree is a tragedy, but is often a necessity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 11:02 am

      Thanks, Peter. I’ve been told I’m actually a memoirist disguised as a poet. I like the WordPress format because, unlike publication in a poetry magazine or chapbook, there is an opportunity to write a lead-in, to tell the story behind the story. Writing poetry has brought greater awareness; greater awareness has brought me poetry to write, a happy cycle. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joyce Robinson October 8, 2017 / 8:58 am

    Another nice one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 10:51 am

      Thanks, Joyce. I’m just one of many tree huggers around these parts. 🙂


  4. House of Heart October 8, 2017 / 9:05 am

    A beautiful message here Joan. Man continues to destroy the lovely living things nature has gifted.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 10:50 am

      Thanks, Holly. Too many forests have been cleared here to make way for housing developments, etc. Perfectly good trees, necessary trees. Mine is terminally ill, a tough call no matter what living thing you’re talking about. Studying the rings inside a tree is like finding a diary that belonged to your grandmother after she’s gone, a treasure that tells the story of a life. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • House of Heart October 8, 2017 / 10:59 am

        So true Joan. Yes, we are encroaching so far into the Everglades here. Housing neighborhoods sprouting up where once water creatures and rivers of grass flourished.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Aunt Marilyn October 8, 2017 / 10:26 am

    Joan….Grandpa W would appreciate your love of trees. Hope you get to save a piece of the tree when the time comes. 🍁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 10:41 am

      Thanks, Aunt Marilyn. I still have a clock Grandpa made me from a slice of a tree. It has needed new works and new hands and many new batteries over the years, but I keep it running because it is very dear to me, just like the baby dolls and graduation quilt Grandma made, a deck of cards saved from their drawer, and a set of multi-colored Pyrex mixing bowls more beautiful for the scratches from years of use in their kitchen. 🙂


    • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 6:09 pm

      Indeed, Marissa. And so much more faithful about keeping their journals than I am. 🙂


  6. L. T. Garvin, Author October 8, 2017 / 3:40 pm

    This was beautiful and sad, Joan. I am like you so much, especially when it comes to trees. Many people are so quick to cut them down, “Look, it makes a mess, it’s dying anyway!” That’s how they think without examining all the little progressions of the tree maintaining what life it has left. I love thinking of history and secrets inscribed in the tree rings. Beautiful and thoughtful post. xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan October 8, 2017 / 6:21 pm

      Thanks, Lana. As they say in The Princess Bride, “No, he’s only MOSTLY dead. Which is slightly alive.” When this guy goes, that’s it. Because of roots infiltrating the sewer and buckling the sidewalk, I won’t purposely plant another tree in that spot. So I have to enjoy the swing and the shade and the wildlife while it lasts. There really is a lot you can tell about a tree by its rings–whether a particular year was wet or dry, hot or cold, if the tree was ill, injured, or burned in a fire, all kinds of history. There used to be a display about it in a nearby park, created using the stump of a big tree that got struck by lightning and fell–so interesting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. kamunde October 19, 2017 / 4:01 am

    ..of secrets never told. Always hoarded this feeling that they hold the secretes to life… really loved it Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 19, 2017 / 3:50 pm

      Thanks, AK. Trees are the ultimate secret-keepers. You can tell them anything. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. judyrutrider October 15, 2020 / 10:17 am

    Perfectly put. And it really does comfort me to know that there are others who understand my “silly” affection and respect for my venerable protectors. Sadly, one has to recognize when the protection comes at too great a risk. Midnight wind storms will no longer keep me awake with anxiety and the expansive view of the valley lights below will have its own charm.

    Liked by 1 person

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