Leaves and Bounding Fruit

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My mother and I debate:
we could sell
the black walnut tree
to the lumberman,
and pay off the mortgage.
Likely some storm anyway
will churn down its dark boughs,
smashing the house. We talk
slowly, two women trying
in a difficult time to be wise.
Roots in the cellar drains,
I say, and she replies
that the leaves are getting heavier
every year, and the fruit
harder to gather away.
But something brighter than money
moves in our blood – an edge
sharp and quick as a trowel
that wants us to dig and sow.
So we talk, but we don’t do
anything.

What my mother and I both know
is that we’d crawl with shame
in the emptiness we’d made
in our own and our fathers’ backyard.
So the black walnut tree
swings through another year
of sun and leaping winds,
of leaves and bounding fruit,
and, month after month, the whip-
crack of the mortgage.
~Mary Oliver from “The Black Walnut Tree” from Twelve Moons

 

We bought this old farm twenty five years ago:
the Lawrence family “Walnut Hill Farm”~
a front yard lined with several tall black walnut trees
brought as seedlings in a suitcase from Ohio
in the ought-1900’s.

These trees thrived for 80 years on this hilltop farm
overlooking the Canadian mountains to the north,
the Nooksack River valley to the west,
the Cascade peaks to the east,
each prolific in leaves
and prodigious in fruit.

The first year we were here,
a windstorm took one tree down.
A neighbor offered
to mill the twisted trunk for shares
so the fallen tree became planks
of fine grained chocolate hued lumber.

This old tree lines our kitchen cupboards,
a daily reminder of an immortality
living on in a legacy left behind~
sturdy while imperfect,
so beautiful to the eye and the heart.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Leaves and Bounding Fruit

  1. how lovely! i am repurposing beloved things, too, at my sewing machine. heart and home centered in our faith for the seven grands we watch grow. a heritage of faith and history running deep here. thank you for your amazing insights, poetry and life logic. you are a gem shining brightly, sharing your light with all who take time to read your blog!

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  2. What a lovely memory, and still part of your life in a very practical way. Continuity is so important in our lives. It forms part of the bedrock upon which we live, keeping us centered.

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  3. That brought tears to my eyes. Thanks. I can picture it well. And what a beautiful place you must live in!!

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  4. A nice story and helps me to appreciate my maple kitchen cabinets. Your story is so historic and personal – A tree from your own yard used in your own kitchen?! Wow!

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