Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Oak Tree by the Riverbank


The majestic oak tree holds court on the riverbank at the border of my childhood backyard. Even now it stands so tall, holds its leaves so high, that I still have to stand back and look up to see them. The barrel trunk, covered with gray-black bark, must lead some folks to think it looks old, rough around the edges. Those folks have never been friends with a tree.

To take in this tree properly was a ritual I perfected before I was four feet tall. Start watching 30 yards away. Let the tree grow in view as I walk out to join it. I was the camera zooming in on the character of this single straight and stately tree that was guarding the gateway to the river. The oak, with its perfect crown, was indisputably king of that river landscape. Though my heart had no words, I knew I wanted to be like that tree: strong, firmly-rooted, and straight about who I am.

The big oak was my friend, my refuge from people who talked too loudly, too abruptly for a painfully shy little girl. It was calm and comforting, ready with shade and a place to be. It was a thinking tree, a dreaming tree, a watching the world and learning tree. It was a place for being a butterfly with my eyes or for watching my big brother mow the lawn to look like a baseball diamond.

Most times I went alone, leaving the world to do whatever worlds do. Sometimes I would lay back looking up through the leaves at the sky for hours. Sometimes I would go every day and then not go for weeks. I never worried about that tree. It always was and always would be.

On the riverbank in rich black dirt lives a benevolent tree--a king with a perfect crown--strong, rooted, and utterly itself. Like a person, that exact tree could not have happened anywhere else. Somehow that tree had come to be in that place for me. I know that the same way I know that I'm the only one who ever hugged that tree. It was near. It was free.

I grew up. I couldn't take the tree with me. Which is not to say I thought about it. I didn't think about the tree--until I needed space to breathe.

Now I know I didn't look at that tree enough. I didn't sit to watch butterflies enough. I didn't lay back to look up through the leaves enough. To me that tree would always be there. I was right. That tree is still there.

I am not.

Other people visit houses where they once lived.
I go back to visit that tree.
—me strauss Letting me be

6 comments:

michael said...

Liz-

I'm stunned that no one has commented on this post. Very deep and intensely personal. The oak was your "giving tree". If you've yet to read the Shel Silverstein story of the same name, you should.
This was wonderful and reminded me of childhood things long forgotten.
I hope you don't mind, but I blogrolled you. Easier to get here.


~michael

ME Strauss said...

Michael,
Oh my God, thank you.

My baby blog was only a week old when I wrote this. I appreciate you more than you know. I will write tonight for you.
Liz

michael said...

Liz-
Not to sound too strange but your writing is very similar to mine.
I think that's what's caught my eye (and ear) here.
I just asked my wife, "Do I write like a woman?"
She just started laughing.
I hope you don't mind me mining your archives.

~Michael

ME Strauss said...

Michael,
You'll find out soon enough I grew up in an all boys neighborhood with only brothers. I probably write like a boy . . . and don't you dare say I throw like a girl.

Mind if you read my archives??? Are you kidding. I'm thrilled that anyone would. I wrote my heart out and had no readers. :)

michael said...

You do now... ;)

~m

ME Strauss said...

I really appreciate that. Thank you sir. Thank you very much.