Full Bloom 13 October 23, 2016
For My Thursday Class Students Fall 2016
Two hundred years ago it was an acorn
like the thousands that fell on my roof this
year. 1816 or so. Jane Austen was alive
but not for much longer. Here dwelt early
land grant men with their slaves. My house
was built on the foundation of a slave-owner’s
house, and around it oaks. They bring shelter,
shade, help with air pollution, beauty. I love
their sheer strength. To look long at a large
oak, tall and wide-spreading, is to take in
its power and peacefulness. When I moved
here, there were five: three in front, one
on each side. In eighteen years one in front
died and cast down all its limbs. Now
the largest, the Champion Black Oak is
casting limbs, and the hurricane took
a large number. They have hung over
my roof. As neighbors we are close,
so this oak belonged to Robert and Emma
when it was named champion. Now it’s
Chloe’s, but I’m the one who loved it.
Robert promised not to cut it down.
Then he died, and Chloe came. I told her
yesterday that it had died and bigger limbs
might fall. I was at risk more than she,
but it could hit the power line between
our homes and start a fire. I called our
electric company. They sent a truck to
have a look. Shawn came to clear the
branches off the roof, found a hole where
a sharp limb had punctured the shingles,
fixed it. I said he could wait, but he did
it the same afternoon. Its grand beauty
is going fast. No green leaves this year.
A limb span still extending wide with roots
under both our homes. That full bloom has
ended, and we must expect its decay. Helen
started me worrying, but I didn’t want
to act yet. Too many other urgencies.
Then came Hurricane Matthew. Limbs
pounded down above my head. Time is
limited for us all. I still teach, write,
publish, garden, care for hens, my dog,
other people, and fight coal ash dumping.
I do forget things, make more mistakes,
get lost more often in unfamiliar places.
I know my leaves will fall, then my limbs.
A deadline can be scary, even if you don’t
know when it is. For now my colors are
lively. Memories return. I check myself
in case of errors, let other people help me,
and they do. Why I don’t know. Sometimes
I don’t even ask. Let me leave behind a
memory of wide-spreading branches,
shading leaves, home-anchoring roots,
and a vitality that stays in other peoples’
minds long after I’m gone.