Thursday, December 22, 2016

rhododendron, after the fire

rhododendron and consciousness

I have known these rosebay rhododendron all my life,
just as I have known the creek along which they huddle,
twenty feet tall and often just as wide:
they are old growth,
a constancy of being themselves
here, snaking along with this stream
since the Ice retreated north
and people first found their way here,

now, change is upon them:
fire leaped, and raced, through the lower woods,
the hungry flames reaching toward the sky
and hurting those green fingers
that work with sun and water the whole year
to capture the energy to hold their sense of self,
to reach for the future in the luxuriance of their flowering
when Earth and Sun find themselves around the Summer Solstice,

when it’s warm, the green fingers reach out like hands
to embrace the sun of the day,
when cold enough they can point straight down
as if to bow before limitation,
now, where the fire hurt them,
the leaves are browning, and hanging down,
where the fire touched them 
they hang limp and maybe lifeless,

Fire damaged rhododendron

Green rhododendron amid the fire damaged neighbors

Both views above in one photo

I wonder at the consciousness within the rhododendron,
how it knows itself,
how it can figure if it’s time to let go,
if there’s a way forward to rebuild, and how,

do its neighbors, spared the devastating loss,
notice the wounded, find any way to help?

most of the flora either slept deep
when the fire passed through,
or reached too high and strong
for the fire to hurt them,
the ash maybe a fertilizer to use in the spring,

right now, though, I feel for the rhododendron,

I wonder at how such life understands and decides,
I honor such effort,
as I have long appreciated the result they live
in the glory of their blossoming.

Healthy rhododendron leaves with snow on them

by Henry H. Walker

December 18, ’16

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