Sunday, November 9, 2008

You really do not see~


The Tree on the Corner
By Lilian Moore

I've seen
The tree on the corner
in spring bud
and summer green.
Yesterday
it was yellow gold.
Then a cold
wind began to blow.
Now I know--
you really do not see
a tree
until you see
its bones.


I came across this poem years ago when I was a new teacher. It was perfect for young students with its simple words, and simple expression of the sequence of the seasons.

I printed the words on chart paper, using the appropriate color for each season's verse. I drew a bare tree, branches reaching and dividing and running off the paper, and leaves on the ground around the trunk. I hung it on a bulletin board every year in November. The children loved its rhythm . . . like the rhythm of the seasons.

I left this poster behind, along with many others, when I retired. But the words remained with me when I left.

Today I walked into a hospital room to visit my mother. She'd broken her hip yesterday and was waiting for surgery.

Pale, slack-faced in sleep, her form looked small as a child's under the white blanket. The skin on her arms and face was as wrinkled as bark . . . and I thought, "You really do not see a tree until you see its bones."

I looked for a long time hesitant to wake her.

This is her winter.

But when she opened her eyes, and reached for my hand with a smile, and said my name with pleasure . . . I saw she still had spring inside.


~~~~~
“Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple tree.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

12 comments:

RiverPoet said...

Ruth - I'll pray that your mother comes through the surgery just fine and heals quickly. I know from experience how hard it is to see them in their winter, but how beautifully you've captured that feeling with this poetry selection. I always saw the spring in my grandmother's eyes. She fought hard to keep it there.

Peace - D

Ross Eldridge said...

Hello there, Ruth,

Beautiful, beautiful photographs, lovely sentiments from the poets, and, of course, your ability and success in saying so much in such a few lines here.

My grandmother broke her hip when she was 99 years old. The surgeon was young, but old enough to admit that he'd never actually operated on anyone 99 years old before and wasn't exactly sure what he was up against.

The surgery was a complete success (she danced a bit at her 100th birthday party, and stood to give a speech at that event and cut a huge cake).

About looks when you get old: I would have thought that retirement homes such as the one my grandmother moved to when she was 98 (she'd lived alone since my grandfather died over 20 years before) would not have mirrors. That people might be distressed to see the "ch-ch-ch-changes they're going through". But "Westmeath" had a mirror in every room.

It was surely winter as far as my grandmother's body was concerned, which worried me more than it did her, but, like your mother, Ruth, spring remained inside.

Something to nurture and cultivate and enjoy.

I'll be thinking of you and your mum. Mine died young and I'd like to have seen her mellowing and winding down and taking naps.

A Janis Ian lyric that I get in my head quite often these bleaker days up here by the North Sea is "And in the winter extra blankets for the cold ... fix the heater ... getting old ... I am wiser now, you know ..."

Best!

Ross

Pauline said...

Such a wonderful post - words and photos - even the shape of the poem resembles a tree...

It's wonderful that when you look at your mom you see her bones and her life force at the same time. It would seem only the outer shell reflects the passing of time - our inner selves "shall always be sweet."

Lisa said...

Such beautiful photos, Ruth, and I love the poems, too.

Much love and healing vibes for your dear Mom. I hope she gets well soon!

Tere said...

This brought tears to my eyes. It's so hard. I wish your mother the best.

Belladonna said...

As always, your eloquence touches my soul. Many blessings for your mom's recovery. And blessings too for you as you journey through her winter days...

Janice Thomson said...

What a beautiful, wise poem - and what a wonderful spirit your mother has. Your words as always are so moving Ruth. Wishing the best for your dear mother...and you.

Barbara said...

It's hard to watch our parents grow old. At some point the roles reverse and the parent becomes the child.

Wanda said...

Oh Ruth, what a touching post and the pictures and poems so excellent.

I could just picture your mother, and the outside bark, but the inner spring flower and the pleasure seeing you brought her.

I took pictures of my Aunt Cassie's hands when she was in the hospital at 98 before her passing. I love the picture of her hands, old and wrinkled but with so many stories to tell.

I am praying for your mother's full and speedy recovery.

Love and Hugs
Wanda

Linda said...

I hope that your mother is having a speedy and successful recovery and that even though she may be entering into her Winter, that she will always carry Spring in her heart. What a lovely, lovely way to look at aging.

Bob Sanchez said...

Ruth,
May your mom have a quick and complete recovery.

Your mention of a tree's bones reminded me of meeting a Cambodian family in February in Massachusetts. They had just arrived, and the man looked around and said to my wife, "Missy, why are all the trees dead?"

Leslie: said...

Oh Ruth! I hope everything goes well for your mother. I miss mine still and she's been gone over 6 years now. Treasure every moment you have with her and be thankful she still knows you and smiles when you enter the room. I'll be praying for full recovery for her. Hugs...