Mary Oliver’s poem has been on my mind for over a week. The photo above was taken in the front yard of our first home in Southern Georgia, near Savannah. That’s my small, petite sister next to me. Just hanging there, swinging back and forth, was exhilarating! Sister #3 was still a baby. Sister #4 hadn’t yet arrived. My brief comments follow.
Green, Green is My Sister’s House
Don’t you dare climb that tree
or even try, they said, or you will be
sent away to the hospital of the
very foolish, if not the other one.
And I suppose, considering my age,
it was fair advice.
But the tree is a sister to me, she
lives alone in a green cottage
high in the air and I know what
would happen, she’d clap her green hands,
she’d shake her green hair, she’d
welcome me. Truly
I try to be good but sometimes
a person just has to break out and
act like the wild and springy thing
one used to be. It’s impossible not
to remember wild and want it back. So
if someday you can’t find me you might
look into that tree or—of course
it’s possible—under it.
Mary Oliver, from A Thousand Mornings
Published in 2013 by Penguin Books, p. 49
© 2012 by NW Orchard LL.C.
I love this poem. Not because I want to climb the tree in the front yard of my childhood home, but because it understands and honors the agony of aging. It remembers how things used to be. The good, the bad, the ugly, and those unrepeatable moments of sheer joy. The dear old tree understands there’s nothing left but to lie down under the lovely tree I used to climb. Or beneath it, in the good earth.
Perhaps this is no more than a romantic twist about my aging heart. The heart that wants it all back again. Not just in fading moments or vague memories, but in reality. Like a beautiful statue that captures the glory, agony, and excitement of life with trees. Special trees. Those that remember us and welcome us home. Wild or weary. It doesn’t matter.
Praying this finds you thriving in your own way, making progress at your own pace, and learning to trust your Higher Power to carry you when you can’t walk so quickly anymore.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2023
Photo taken by my father in the early 1950s. The house looks out on the Vernon River. We’re hanging from an old mimosa tree.