Poem for Arbor Day: Like a Tree
I have looked at this tree every day I’ve lived in this house, bu tone morning last year I followed my little black cat Mimi into my neighbor’s yard, just across the fence line, no fence, from our yard, and looked up at the tall maple tree from a different angle. What a great view, all those colors and shapes and little bits of sky, I guess I’ll sketch it, I thought.
Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April in the United States, as trees have been celebrated all over the world in other festivals throughout human history, and we plant trees, care for trees and observe and honor the trees we live with. You can learn more about Arbor Day here.
The coming of green to the bare trees in spring is as exciting to me as the coming of wild reds and yellows in autumn. Tiny tentative sprays of green spread from one tree to the next, each day brings more green, more shades of green to all the trees around me. Even more than bird returning or daffodils and crocuses and forsythia blooming, the return of the leaves is a confirmation of the return of life to me.
Here in Western Pennsylvania with our miles and miles of tree-covered hills it’s as if someone is air brushing the landscape, and as the leaves spread and grow the hills, which had before seemed flat now take shape and dimension. Because I am compelled to photograph and paint these colors I run here and there when the morning sun catches the trees, or the purple clouds of an afternoon storm gather behind the brilliant lime of the tree tops, or the evening sun shines, angled, through a grove of trees.
Because I paint Western Pennsylvania, nearly every one of my landscape paintings contains a tree, usually more than one, and often the trees themselves are the subjects. I have gigabytes of photos of trees, just for the trees’ sake, not to mention ones where the trees are the supporting cast. The other day I ran an errand entirely on winding back roads so that I could drive 10 miles per hour and photograph the beauty unfolding at every turn, even if they weren’t particularly good photos; the change had come so quickly that I was completely distracted and it was either that or have someone drive me or I’d wreck my car.
I think of the trees around me as I think of my friends, those constant presences that are more a part of us than we know. They inspired this poem.
Like a Tree
To live my life like a tree,
to grow steadily from small beginnings,
fervently when possible, and quietly adapt when necessary,
stand in peace and harmony with my neighbors,
bear my fruit appropriately,
bring shelter and comfort to others indiscriminately,
and when my season is over
graciously give my gift to the earth
for the benefit of myself and all around me,
and without fear
patiently wait for my moment to return
poem © 2000 Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Read the rest of the poetry from my first ever poetry reading and art show at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, in 2007 entitled Paths I Have Walked.
About Art of the Watershed and the Collected Poems
A series of seasonal images of the Lower Chartiers Watershed
“I have travelled a good deal in Concord,” said Henry David Thoreau in Walden, his paradox of exploring a small town and its surroundings teaching him as much about human life and the interactions of nature as if he had traveled rare and exotic places about the globe.
I’d love to paint faraway exotic places, but in the interests of time I stay close to home for my hiking, bicycling, canoeing, walking and painting excursions, that being the valley where the Lower Chartiers Creek flows.
I’ve seen some exquisite sights on my adventures, and committed them to various media. The most moving are the ones I’ve chosen to paint large and in detail so that I might convey at least a portion of the grandeur that moved me beyond awe to action, sharing the places right around us though most people would never see them. Thus was born the series offering an image indicative of the watershed in each season.
About the books and the poetry readings
My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.
In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to fi nd my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.
My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. Each year I am invited back to read my poetry and exhibit my artwork. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.
And visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.
Visit my website to see the full set of paintings included in the “Art of the Watershed” series.
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