Friday, April 16, 2010

Of Moss and Limb

A splendid old tree keeps me company at the bay while I write. The owner of the house refers to her with a feminine pronoun so I will too. She is a live oak I think---a mostly dead live oak, riddled with

woodpecker holes and all hung with spanish moss, yet full of life.
Aside from the variety of woodpecker species she now supports, she has likely been home to countless birds and insects across her lifespan. I'd love to know how old she is. She has lived through quite a few hurricanes, of that I am sure. She has only three branches left that still grow green leaves. Her broken dead boughs make a striking and statuesque silhouette against the sky.

She bows to every sunset with humility and reverence. I've taken hundreds of photos but not one of them breathes like she does in the act of letting the sun down. Her thick curved trunk is split and rotting inside, home to any number of creatures. Last year in late May, a swarm of bees made honey inside her trunk. What a rare gift to have naturally occurring honeybees not farmed in factory built hives. I see no sign of them this year. Too early? Here's hoping they return.

What is that growing inside the split in her trunk? Last year the morning sun shone through the split, but this year it is blocked by some grotesque sort of bark like growth. I'm afraid to reach inside to touch it. It is covered with bark, but shaped nothing like any part of a tree trunk. It's a roundish billowing hump-like thing, yet looks solid and firm, like hardened lava, but the color and texture of bark. A final valiant effort to heal her wounded soul? A cancerous growth? Something else altogether?

She has lost at least one large branch since last year, I assume in a windstorm. I miss the growing possum-shaped moss that hailed me from that branch in my past two visits. On the remaining stub of this branch now sits a pair of African Gray parrots, rendered in moss. As I worked on on my revisions on the screened porch today, my bald eagle friend, in flesh and feather, landed on an upper limb of the tree---and later, a striped tailed hawk. She is an ever changing picture frame, this tree.

Full of dignity and generosity in her dying, she lends courage to anyone who will accept it. dkm

You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

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