Saturday, October 22, 2011


       Opening my eyes in the morning,  I turn to  the window beside our bed.  The trees are always there, this morning looking stoic against a gray sky.  When I look straight ahead I see my full length mirror reflecting  amber leaves through the sun room windows in my office.  Just inches above that reflection hangs a painting by Cindy Davis:  trees cradling a full moon, their roots reaching all the way down to the edge of the painting.  They appear to be floating in a blue ether, these trees of a woman's imagination.  Their roots delicate, yet determined.
          Humans were once thought to have sprung from trees.  The image of Daphne being transformed into a tree to escape  a lecherous  Apollo rises up in my memory.   She prays to the river god to save her and he turns her into a laurel tree.   Just in the nick of time.  At the edge of the threshold beyond which lies violation.   How many women have wished to become such a  tree, I wonder, sinking their roots into the soil where they live, free of the duties and dangers of womanhood?
          What do we do when the soil that we sink our roots into has become violated by what rises and flows from the power plants that enable us to turn the lights on when we awaken each morning?   That enable me to lie late in bed (it's Saturday, after all) with my laptop, typing this meditation on trees?
             That the ground upon which we stand is being violated, that the river where my small daughter and I sat, throwing sticks into the current, has been woven through with contaminants I can't even pronounce , that the air itself teams with dust that is not the cosmic dust we've been told has circulated through  space since the moment of creation but the dust from power plants, riding the currents for hundreds of miles, how do I hold that reality in my head this morning as I stare out my windows, feeling the usual surge of gratitude that I live in a place where not only can I see trees from every window of my house....but  I can also shove my feet into my bedroom scuffs and go walk outside among them, drinking my second cup of coffee?

That's a long sentence, that one I just strung together. But it doesn't come close to linking all the images, the fears, the reflections I carry in my mind this morning, waking up after two days of hearing about and seeing what has been happening to our homeland here in the mountains.  And beyond.  "We are losing our homes," says seventh generation ballad singer and longtime friend Sheila Kay Adams, a native of nearby Madison County.  We are losing the very "ground" of home, it seems, and not only the literal sod but also our connections to it and the people who live around us.
           The trees have always been my refuge, whether I stand at the window looking at them or go walking into their  leafy presence.  The Appalachian mountains are the "vegetation cradle" of North America.  They have cradled us, as well.  That cradle needs our care.  Our tending.
              It needs our lullabyes, our love songs, our hands and minds watching over it.
              Maybe we should for a moment in our imaginations become Daphnes, feeling our roots sinking deep into soil, our leaves clinging or letting go,  squirrels skittering over our branches while our dogs yap below, eager to give chase.
             Or maybe they are just pissed off because we have all suddenly disappeared and their supper bowls sit empty on the porch!



  1. Beautiful reflection, Kay. I count myself lucky to see trees out my windows -- trees and trees and trees. Trees are, in a manner of speaking, the lungs of our planet. And as the pastures of our farm begin to be overtaken by the forest, I can tell myself that it's a Good Thing.

  2. kay, this an excerpt from Whispers of My Blood about trees:
    "The rising flames of my campfire cast an ethereal glow across the meadow of green nettle and mayflowers and illuminate the trunks of the massive trees. Silhouettes of dead tress lean against the living ones, life and death interpenetrated, and the ones half rotted on the ground supply sustenance to untold species of burgeoning life. The electric buzz a million cicadas and crickets suffuse the wilderness. I sense the proximity of black bears and coyotes and rattlesnakes.
    The presences of the living woods expose my egotisms. The clear light of the vital fire pierces my illusions of self-deception and consumes the false gods that bedim my vision.My blood whispers to me from the ancient of days.Now, nothing stands between my heart and the heart of the palpable earth. I sing quietly with the voice of my soul in the temple of the living and dying.
    I imagine my death, my body rotting beneath the dirt like the trees in their holy cemetery. I see the worms and maggots, flies and gnats, vultures and four-legged beasts feasting upon my body. What was once a nightmare of horrors upon horrors is a sober reality. Rot and new birth interwoven. No more fantasies of angels and streets paved with gold; only the loamy dirt and life at the root of existence."