Even on these oppressive early summer days with their scorching 98 degree temps, I sit under the Kwanzan cherry tree next to our porch to drink my coffee and read the day’s news to start my day. I do get up early, but the shade from this 18-year-old tree remains comfortable until mid-morning if I have the luxury of staying that long.
On the branches of this tree, now leafy and verdant, two wind chimes hang; one is tuned to “Amazing Grace” and one with butterfly shapes was transferred from my mother’s kitchen where never a breeze stirred it to play its notes. Now it sings.
On other branches, two blue glass hummingbird feeders and a small bird feeder hang. Hummingbirds with and without their tuxes come to sip the nectar and refuel for their journeys.
Chickadees, house finches and sometimes too-large cardinals feed at the bird feeder’s small tray with the copper dome to shield them from rain and bigger birds.
In the spring, the tree sports fluffy pink double blossoms that look like balls of cotton candy from a distance. I even enjoy sweeping the layers of pink snow when the wind relieves the tree of its flowers.
In the fall, the tree turns slowly to brilliant orange/yellow/red as its leaves are ready to fall.
In the winter, the tree stands stalwart. When the branches are bare, I can see the green jump rope that one of the granddaughters tied to a branch way near the top so that she and her sisters could pull themselves up high into the tree. I can see the lovely shape of the skeleton of this tree with its sheltering arms outstretched.
A few years ago, I thought the tree was dying. Its trunk had been nicked, and it looked as if it had a fungal infection. It was OK if it didn’t make it, I decided, because it had been so beautiful for these years, but I was still dismayed to read that the life expectancy of these particular trees was about 15 years.
The tree, you see, was a gift from two dear friends who brought it right after Elizabeth died. She died two months before her sixteenth birthday, and the tree was 15 too when it began to fail.
But the lovely Kwanzan cherry tree has healed, and it grows and thrives at the corner of our back porch. For now, it continues to shield us from the hottest rays of the sun and provide a haven for hummingbirds and all manner of birds and bees. And its music from windchimes is ethereal.
This morning, I read “Living Tree,” a poem by Robert Morgan, as I sat beneath its shade. The poem begins,
“It’s said they planted trees by graves
to soak up spirits of the dead
through roots into the growing wood.”
So I imagine my daughter’s spirit all around this space this morning.
The poem continues, describing the tree as
“erect as truth, a testimony,
in ground that’s dignified by loss,
around a melancholy tree
that’s pointing toward infinity.”
I liked the point. I love the tree. I thought of my daughter’s spirit around us. I know she’d love its seasons too.