So much of America belongs to the trees

In honor of Earth Day, here is a beautifully thoughtful poem from one of my favorite contemporary poets, Ada Limón (1976-).

an illustration of trees and roots
Art by Kristina Closs

“Of Roots & Roamers”

Have you ever noticed how the trees
change from state to state? Not all
at once, of course, more like a weaver
gradually weaving in another color
until the old trees become scarce
and new trees offer a shaded kingdom
all their own. Before I knew the names
of towns or roads, I could recognize
places by the trees: Northern California’s
smooth-skinned madrone, looming eucalyptus,
fuzzy fragrant flowers of the acacia. So
much of America belongs to the trees.
Even when we can’t agree on much,
there’s still the man returning from his
late shift at the local bar, who takes
a long look at the bird’s nest in the maple,
pats the trunk like a friend’s forearm,
mumbles something about staying safe
and returns home. And the girl whose
slapdash tree fort we can see from our blurry
window, how she stands there to wave
at a world she does not even know
the half of yet. My grandmother once
complained she couldn’t see much
of America on her cross country trip because
it was all just trees. Ask her, she’ll laugh as she
tells you. Still, without the bother of licenses
or attention to a state line, a border, they
just grow where they’ve grown all their lives:
there, a small stand of white pine arrives,
there, a redwood begins to show itself along
the coastline, water oaks in the south, willows.
Their power is in not moving, so we must move
to them.

from The Carrying

Advertisement

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, can I do better?

I wonder what poems Mary Oliver (1935-2019), in her infinite wisdom, would be writing right now if she hadn’t passed away last year. So much of her work has already brought me comfort and peace this spring.

song sparrow
Song Sparrow, Palo Alto Baylands Natural Preserve. Photo by my friend Jeff Schwegman

“I Worried”

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

I pick them as I picked you

IMG_2949.jpg
Wildflowers in Carrizo Plain National Monument, 2016

From Aspects of Eve, by Linda Pastan (1932-).

“Wildflowers”

You gave me dandelions.
They took our lawn
by squatters’ rights—
round suns rising
in April, soft moons
blowing away in June.
You gave me lady slippers,
bloodroot, milkweed,
trillium whose secret number
the children you gave me
tell. In the hierarchy
of flowers, the wild
rise on their stems
for naming.
Call them weeds.
I pick them as I
picked you,
for their fierce,
unruly joy.