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A Beautiful Tree

Updated on February 8, 2013
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Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She writes about nature, social justice, and Native America.

They said you were just a tree. They said you were old and tired and that your roots were so shallow that the next storm might topple you over. Between you and me, I don’t think they were worried about you. I think they were worried about their precious car that parks underneath your widespread branches. Have they ever thanked you? No? I didn’t think so.

They said you were just a tree but I know the real you. You were a home; a home for the squirrels that made their nests in your branches. I wonder how many babies were born there. Every year I watched them carry twigs up your massive trunk, looking over their shoulder to make sure the other critters weren’t watching. Your branches held their nests tenderly, as if those babies were your own. You took such good care of them.

You never were an easy tree to climb. I tried, year after year. But your lower branches were just too far off the ground for a kid like me to get a grip on them. At some point, I just gave up and enjoyed sitting with my back against your bark, staring up into your branches and dreaming of, well, whatever little girls dream of. Okay, it was love. I dreamed of love as I sat there. I wondered if anyone would ever love me enough to carve my initials in your bark. They never did.

They said you were just a tree. Ha! How foolish they were. You were the place of romance. Every Spring the Robins would meet among the new leaves, singing their love songs to each other and planning their futures. They always sounded so happy. You were not aware that I was listening, were you?

For just a tree, you’ve seen a lot. You watched Mr. Smith next door go through three wives and heard all the yelling and screaming that went with them when they left. Do you remember Holly? She was the little girl who crept into our yard and stole the acorns that had fallen from your limbs. Her Mom said she knew better than to eat them but she did it anyway and boy was she sick. And there was Michael. Remember Michael? When he didn’t want to be found he would hind behind your trunk. His mother would call and call to him and he would just hug your trunk a little tighter. I don’t think she ever realized you were his hiding place.

The boys hated you in the Fall. They said you had too many leaves and they hated having to rake them. But I bet you haven’t forgotten the laugher as they jumped from pile to pile, tossing them up in the air and scattering them all over the yard again.

Once, when Roger was living next door, he asked if we would cut you down. He wanted to put up a fence and your roots were in the way. Dad refused without a second thought. I was thrilled until I learned that he wasn’t protecting you. He just didn’t like Roger.

Trees by Alfred Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

They said you are just a tree but it’s not true. You were the lookout for storms for over 40 years. When the wind picked up and the storm clouds gathered, you would bang the attic with your branches, warning us that rain was coming. You always weathered the storms and that amazed me. I remember thinking how brave you were. When winter arrived you stood there naked in the cold, never complaining, quietly sleeping and preparing yourself for Spring. Those hard winters never did get the best of you. You were beautiful in the snow too. Once I told them that you were majestic and they laughed at me. They never understood, did they?

They said you are just a tree but I loved you, from the moment I saw you. You were my friend and I told you all my secrets. I trusted you to keep my secrets and you never let me down, not once. You watched me grow, through all that silly little girl stuff and you never judged or laughed at me. I played with my dolls underneath your shady protection and read you the poems of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Frost. When I discovered Henry David Thoreau I couldn’t wait to share with you his love of nature. I know you remember how I came running home from school the day my teacher read to me “Trees” by Alfred Joyce Kilmer. I thought she had written that poem about you. Do you remember the words? I read them to you with all the love inside me and even now, the words are etched on my memory, as is the image of you, who they called - just a tree.

They say you are just a tree and that you have to go but I cannot bear to say goodbye to you. I won’t watch them. I can’t. They have started the chain-saw and they are coming. I must go but you won’t forget me, will you? I have loved you and you have been a good friend. They say you are just a tree, but it isn’t so. You are so much more.

You are a beautiful tree.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.

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  • ecogranny profile image

    Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

    I'm glad it was the first one I saw too.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

    ecogranny - Thank you so much for the visit. I am so excited that you chose this one. It doesn't get a lot of attention but is a personal favorite of mine. I have had a love affair with trees for as long as I can remember. I am so happy to meet another kindred tree person. Blessings to you.

  • ecogranny profile image

    Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

    Tears in my eyes for the loss of your beloved tree. Thank you for sharing the story of its shelter and beauty for all those years. No one can ever tell me that trees are not sentient. They simply don't know.

    My sixth grade teacher gave me Kilmer's "Trees" to memorize. Somehow she knew.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Oh Sir Epi-man, you are a challenging one, aren't you? First, the niceties.

    I am so touched that you like this hub. My mind can't seem to wrap around the possibility of me writing poetry. I have always loved poetry but I have never tried to write it. Maybe one day soon I will try my hand. I've always wished I had written the Kilmer poem quoted in this hub. I do so love trees.

    Thank you for encouraging me to unleash my undisciplined self on the world.

    Now, for the second part of your challenge. Ten records you say? That's a tough one and I think it would be easier to write a poem. Well, here goes -

    1. Stevie Nicks - In Your Dreams (it's new and I love every track)

    2. Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant (my dose of folk nostalgia)

    3, George Winston - December (the piano soothes my soul and I love Variation on Cano )

    4. Bob Marley - Legend (got to have some raggae feel good music)

    5. Crosby, Stills, & Nash - Crosby, Stills & Nash (to cover the 70's)

    6. Van Morrison - Moondance (just because I love it)

    7. Joe Bonamasso - Blues Deluxe (just darn good blues guitar)

    8. Norah Jones - Come Away With Me (my laid back mood music)

    9. Sharon Burch Touch The Sweet Earth (to touch my Native American roots)

    10. I don't know!!!!. I can't pick just one more. This is pure torture. If I don't pick the last one, maybe I won't have to go. to that island.

    2:50 am east coast - I need sleep. lol

  • epigramman profile image

    epigramman 4 years ago

    ...well Linda , Amy was raving about this piece to me and I can see why - when I read your stirring words I saw a movie unfold in my cinematic mind with people and animals throughout the lifespan of a tree - it is easy to see/read why you have such a poetic gift as a writer.

    This is exactly what I was talking about earlier -find a comfort zone then write from your heart and the mind will always follow. And don't necessarily follow poetic conventions or traditions - just let it flow and the words will take care of themselves.

    Thank you for this beautiful and artistic rendering - now you have moved and inspired the epi-man all in one glorious life affirming read - and sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time 4:54pm I went for my walk around the bay of the lake today and I managed to make it a writer's walk too - can you list for me 10 records you would take to a desert island with you and I shall do the same

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, I knew you would get this one. Never doubted it for a moment. Thanks again for sharing it with me.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Oh, Linda how heartbreaking to lose your beloved tree! I have a huge oak tree in my back yard. I recently hired a company to trim the branches that were encroaching my roof, but told them to leave the integrity of the tree intact. I bought my house seventeen years ago because of that tree!

    Your narration is impeccable; I traveled back in time to your childhood. I was genuinely distressed by the ending. I cry tears with you my friend.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Adama, thank you!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi vocalcoach. I'm headed your way shortly to read your hub about trees. I'm thrilled to have you as a tree hugging friend. :-)

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    Adama Gidado 4 years ago

    This is a beautiful poem. I really enjoyed and also have a special appreciation for trees and nature.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

    Trees are my friends - I hug one every day. I wrote a hub about trees and I also featured Kilmer's beautiful poem. I enjoyed this so very much. Well done, my friend. Voted up and more and will share this. Thank you.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi shiningirisheyes! Happy Monday morning to ya.

    Thanks for shring my feelings about trees. I thought of the trees when Sandy hit. Of course people were first priority but I also grieved for the trees.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Carol, good morning! I love your story. Thanks for sharing it. At least your family planted one instead of cutting one down. :-)

  • shiningirisheyes profile image

    Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

    What a wonderful ode to a majestic friend. I know how you feel as we lost many dear old friends during the storm Sandy. It was the one moment that my heart broke a bit. Although very thankful our damage was so small compared to so many, loosing those beautiful friends was very sad.

  • carol7777 profile image

    carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

    writing about trees has brought back a fun memory. When we moved to California my sister and I insisted that our parents plant a large tree in the front yard so we could read under it. We actually only lived there for a year..and the tree turned out to be a dwarf pepper tree. When I get to California and do a trip down memory lane I always laugh at the now 12 foot tree after many years. Thanks for sharing all this.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Louisa. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Actually, the piece is pure fiction, not based on any truth at all, beyond my love of trees. The sarcasm was intentional as life is not perfect. Considering that the tree was ultimately destroyed, I did't think the paragraph about the neighbor was out of place. However, I will give it some thought. Thank you!

  • Louisa Rogers profile image

    Louisa Rogers 4 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

    I felt your love of the tree, and through you loved it, too. I did feel uncomfortable with the sarcasm expressed at your (I assume?) former neighbors. It felt out of place in an essay that was really about love. I understand you were unhappy with their decision, but I think there's a better way to express it. It cast a dark light on an otherwise beautiful hub.

  • Amy Becherer profile image

    Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Kindred spirits we are, Linda. I love that..."tree buddies for life". Thank you. You make my heart sing.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    OMG Amy, I feel the same. I haven't had a live tree in years. For several years I brought in a fallen branch from the woods and had myself a Charlie Brown tree. They may have been my favorites, actually. There were other years that my ex and I bought balled and burlapped trees to plant after Christmas but after a while, ran out of room to plant. There will never be another live, cut tree in my home and I do everything within my power to shame my friends that still use them. I'm not above shame. :-) Now, I will keep your secret. We are tree buddies for life.

  • Amy Becherer profile image

    Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    I remember, Linda, when my daughter was a wee one and a prolific apple tree in our backyard was damaged by a storm. I propped the tree to bolster it and it survived, producing more wonderful apples until my ex decided to chop it down. Shhhh! It will be our secret that my daughter and I both bawled like babies. And, though I love the smell of a "real" Christmas tree, I am grief stricken when I see them cut and bound for sale in holiday lots. I am appalled every year when I see a magnificent, long lived fir tree cut down to temporarily decorate Rockefeller Plaza in New York City for Christmas.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Amy, I love your beautiful comment. I am a proverbial tree hugger. I have loved them since I was a little girl and they often teach me some very important life lessons. I am a real goof-ball when it comes to the destruction they suffer at the hands of humans and, storms. I cry just as easily over a tree as I do a human being. Shhhh! Don't let that out. lol

    Thanks again!

  • Amy Becherer profile image

    Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    You and I share the same feelings about the unassuming yet important values in the life of a tree, Linda. Though a shelter for the birds and squirrels and shade for us from the sun, sometimes bearing fruit or nuts, it is usually relegated to the background as the proverbial underdog. Despite its benefits, with leaves that give us shade in the summer heat and light landscapes in it's autumn prime, those leaves are cursed a nuisance when they fall. And that beautiful tree is often brought down at the will and hands of humanity. Beautifully poetic piece, Linda, that shows your compassion, understanding and respect of all living entities. Awesome

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thank you Debbie. The feeling is mutual. I appreciate your reading and sharing my love of trees.

  • Deborah Brooks profile image

    Deborah Brooks Langford 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

    There is nothing as lovely as a tree and this poem.. many blessings to you., I love it.

    voted up and beautiful and awesome ..

    So nice to meet you

    Debbie

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    MH, thank you! So you and Arlene have a special tree too. They are good friends to have. You should write about your tree!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill. thank you. I had shut the computer down for the evening and was standing in the shower when this one came to me. I realized that all this talk about humanity had left me a little empty, starved for the one thing that has always brought me joy and peace, and that was nature. I needed that connection today. I tried to ignore it but the words just kept coming so I wrote it, in about 10 minutes. Even if no one else enjoyed it, it fed my soul today.

    I see your point about my Dad. It could easily have applied, you're right. Thank you for pointing it out. I really appreciate your kindness in thinking of him. Big hug coming your way!

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

    Thank you for the compliment. Funny you should write about a tree. I have been thinking about a tree in Golden Gate park where a young couple met and Arlene and I often returned to the scene. Special...

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Two beautiful pieces from you in one day! That is a true bonus, and make no mistake about it, this was beautiful. While I was reading it I thought that it might be about your dad. :) So much applies.

    Thank you for ending my day on such a lovely note.

    peace to you kindred spirit

    bill