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.
Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened you and the seasons spoke the same language and all these years I have looked through your limbs to the river below and the roofs and the night and you were the way I saw the world ~W.S. Merwin from “Elegy for a Walnut”
This grand old tree defines the seasons for me~
and defines me as I age.
This winter’s storms took its branches down in the night
with deafening cracks so loud
I feared to see the remnant in the morning,
yet it stands, intrepid
for another round of seasons–
tired, sagging, broken
and still reaching to the sky.
The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely. ~Louisa May Alcott
And as you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens. ~Stephen Graham from The Gentle Art of Tramping
That great door opens on the present, illuminates it as with a multitude of flashing torches. ~Annie Dillard (in response to the above quote) from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Ever since I started noticing
how beautiful are the most humble things
and the most humble people,
I realized the great door opened to me
is the door of my own home
and my own happiness.
I need go no further than my own back yard.