Sunday, December 11, 2016

the Great Beech passes

consequence and revelation

today I needed to drive up into the Smokies
to see where and how the Chimney Tops 2 fire
spread and visited its will upon the woods,

like a virulent infection
it caught ahold of one spot
and then spread to another spot,
those spots spreading, doubling and redoubling,
beyond what the patient’s immune system
of fire fighters could handle,
the embers blown as if as a blow torch,

Rhododendron Leaves, both browned and still green.

the fire browsing on dead leaves and twigs,
and feasting on desiccated logs and old stumps,
some stumps looking like calderas
after the volcano blew,

around some stumps the fire radiated out
from the stump following the major roots
like tentacles from a squid,
much of the forest floor looks swept,

Old Sled Road Bed up Grassy Branch

after leaf fire and wind cleaned it up,
though enough branches and big limbs 
are scattered everywhere
to fickle the steps
and harry the footing, 

I am intrigued by what is now more clearly revealed,
like the rocks in chimneys, walls, 
and piled by people and the last Ice Age,

Old Watson house, fireplace and cellar.  I have a Jim Thompson picture
saved from the house before it burned 90 years ago.

not far above our cabin
the Great Beech tree I have known all my life
finally toppled to the ground,

a great section of its living base
still holds toward the sky, 10 feet into the air,
for decades we have watched fungus attack it,
first a brownish-black stain at the base,
morphing into a rot that took away 
2/3 of its lowest trunk,
the 1/3 remaining still leafed this last season,
once on the ground the fire consumed
what fungus and rot had already claimed,
the body in the coffin before me
greatly diminished but cleaned-up and still impressive,

I have long expected the Great Beech
to give up the ghost any time,
I wondered which of us would surrender to time first,

a Native American prayer I love 
and use often
reminds us to 
“learn the lessons hidden 
in every leaf and rock,”

like a scientist toward truth,
like a believer toward revelation,
I seek to understand what is true and right,
and I hope to then have the wisdom to act wisely.

by Henry H. Walker

December 9, ’16

1 comment:

Roadscrape88 said...

Henry, I made a prior comment regarding burned stump photos. I see you have them posted here. As I've roamed the mountain forest, I've often wondered about the holes like a caldera I would find in the ground. The burned stumps explain it.

I've talked with a number of long time mountain residents this fall that said in their life they had never seen the rhodos dry up like they did this fall. Sad.