Wounded Whole

We live in the presence of one of the largest Tulip Poplar trees in the state of North Carolina. Almost twenty feet around at its base, reaching up over a hundred feet and an equal span across, it sings out the changing seasons on our mountainside.

Popular tree in spring when leaves are starting to form

We are not its owners. We are only temporary guardians. Our arborist guesses that its age is over two hundred and fifty years – older than the Constitution.

Cherokee ancestors hunted underneath it, an orchard stretched beneath it until only a few years ago.  Until we built our driveway a small spring emerged beneath it. There is a hollow at its base and we surmise it escaped the lumberjacks because of the damage caused by a thunderbolt long ago.

Popular tree with no leaves during winter

About a decade ago I wove some humorous reflections around it as a symbol and source of healing, but it is only now that it generates a poem to crystallize some of its meaning for us. Many, if not most, of us have some important trees in our lives. They are part of our planet’s lungs, source of the very air we breathe.

And, of course, they are festooned with religious meanings, from the tree of Eden’s paradise to the tree of Revelation’s new heaven and new earth. The more we realize our symbiosis with trees, the more we can be energized to bring our life back in balance with its very source. Maybe a reflection like this might help a little.

Wind wrought lightning

            seared

            the tulip poplar,

cauterized

            her cambium,

            ripped off her skin,

struck from the pith

            an incensed offering

            to natural wrath.

Yet living on

            she opened grateful leaves

            to rain

            to sun,

received the rings

            of spring’s embrace

            around her hollow core,

endures more years

            than our Republic

            wounded

            worthless

            saved from lumberjacks

            and greed….

Popular tree with yellow foliage