Still Life

(to be read with a southern accent for matins at Holden Village)

On the trail up to copper basin, I saw a crippled tree mired upright in the mountainside. It was half blasted away by some catastrophe, and most of the rest had rotted away. Really it was just a quarter circle of bark and a bit of good wood clinging to the inside that jutted up about 15 feet to end in a blunt tongue.

I only saw it from the back side, the bark mostly hidden by the wet rotted splinters that used to be the heart wood. Two thirds up there was a knot hole that went right through the two or three inches that was left of that side of the tree. You could see daylight on the other side. Some branch that had, I suppose, lost its battle along with the rest of the trunk.

And just below the knot hole, a whole new tree was growing--ten feet off the ground. It stretched up, strong like the morning, from the rotted tombstone. This tree was ten feet tall itself, and green with sap held in pockets under the skin. It curled out at the bottom and then up, the way many of those trees do, welded to the side of the mountain.

It took my breath away. Alright, I had already lost my breath trying not to look too foolish while keeping up with my companions. But it was fun to sit down and look at, even after I was able to breath easily again.

Now I don't want to draw too strong a moral from a beat-up tree, but it has set me to thinking. Even when more than the better half of that tree was ripped away, it still somehow worked out a way to do its job. It is a comfort to think a tree can do this, and some encouragement to try it myself.

St. Olaf College
Psychology Department
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