The Arbor Vitae 2013

Tags

Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

SONGS OF SUMMER

August 6, 2014

Tags: maple, stone house, hollyhocks

Roses around the Stone Well
The heavy rains of early summer have resulted in a thick blanket of creepers and vines draping every tree and bush with tropical intensity along the way between the city and our stone house upstate. I wonder if the obliterated trees will survive the onslaught.
I look out of the windows of the old stone house and I can almost feel the thickness of dense vegetation closing in, although early landscapers created views of wide swathes of fields bordered sparely by dark conifers and a variety of deciduous shades of green. The climbing roses on one side of the stone well are thriving. The other side refuses to climb. I have given up.
Trees close to the house frame house and flower-beds discreetly, without intruding. They stand benevolent guard, branches weighed down with decades of growth. Out on the front lawn, the giant maple that has been presiding over the house for over a century lost two significant branches in some recent storm which we did not experience. We mourned the evidence as the car pulled up at the head of the driveway. Nonetheless the huge maple still stands proudly, a spectacular sentinel, waiting for the winds of autumn to fill its arms with gold.
And now I see that the hollyhocks planted earlier this summer have grown to amazing heights, red and white flowers alternating with tightly clustered buds straining at their green sheaths to open in the sun. Like lanky girls at a ball, they sway and smile, dancing beautiful blossoms to the music of the breeze.
This old stone house has sheltered hopes and dreams, pain and loss for centuries. It withstands weather and age, waiting for us to escape our daily lives for a brief promise of peace. It waits for us to be restored. I am deeply grateful for its healing walls.
Standing at the window in the kitchen with the view of the pond in the distance, I dream and drift, and that is all. And that is enough.


The Arbor Vitae Tree

May 10, 2013

Tags: Survive; arbor vitae, stone house, tree

The Arbor Vitae in its younger days
  I grew up where trees and flowering plants were named eucalyptus, jacaranda, bougainvillea, the music of color caught in the music of their names. Lemon trees, rose bushes, jasmine, magnolia, mango and palm wafted fragrances on a gentle breeze that I can still summon up if I close my eyes.
  Flaring out from a corner of our house in upstate New York, was a tree I had never seen before, spreading sculptural beauty, leaning outward from old stone walls, an intricate puzzle of smooth brown branches and tight circular masses of tiny green leaves. The tree is old, and bears no hint as to who first planted its roots into the earth. When we first bought the house, it was a dense splendor of large boles bearing perfect globes of miniature fans massed together, rich green, tight with sap, tiny fists of luminous green at every tip and twig vigorously reaching toward the sun. Brown branches twisted, threaded in and out of each other, leaned out from the grey fieldstone walls of the house. Magnificent.
   A tree expert came by one afternoon to tend to an aging cherry tree.
  “What do you call this tree?” I asked as we hurried past the corner of the house. He named it for me, looking back admiringly. “That's a fine old evergreen, an arbor vitae,” he said, “the tree of life.”
  As years rolled by, storms slashed at the arbor vitae. Heavy snows turned its dense green masses into gigantic snowballs, glistening white against a sharp blue sky. One by one, branches split off, pulled to the ground as fierce winds raged against the old stone house.
  Chainsaw in hand, my husband neatly lopped off ragged edges of loss as more years passed.
  I watched in dismay. “The tree will never survive,” I cried, seeing its beautiful shape scarred and disfigured.
  But each spring found the arbor vitae sealing off its losses. New shapes sprang from its branches. Its dignity intact, its silvered bark polished, smooth as silk, it raised dense masses again from its branches, newborn green tipping every twig. It did not die. Where dark green had been its vocabulary, it offered more spaces, more scars, more silver curved against the corner of the house. As the winds hummed, it sang new songs and danced new dances. It is such a beautiful tree.
  And I saw it at last as a metaphor for life, the arbor vitae, a life force that adapted to onslaught and change and still tipped its twigs in pale green fists in spring, pointing them proudly at the sky. It survives because it does not accept defeat. Its silver trunk gleams with the beauty of age. It shifts its shape to fit the moment and never loses its soul.


Find Authors