Monday, August 27, 2018

Where a Tree Once Stood—A Memoir Moment

I often urge writers to use the resources within their own lives to find something to write. Even the ordinary reveals an extraordinary moment. This lends itself to a daily writing practice. It also requires the confidence of voice coupled with the intent to let the writing lead to revelation. 

As Natalie Goldberg, author, says, "I don't think everyone wants to create the great American novel, but we all have a dream of telling our stories—of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate."

Here's something I wrote this weekend that lends itself to that.


Seasons passed—one after another—and the tree grew. A foot here, a foot there. Visitations by parents now dead these many years...friends come and gone...strangers, their names elude me, stopping by for whatever. The tree stood sentinel.

“A Colorado blue spruce,” you said. “It's beautiful.” Our little son danced around it. No more than seven feet high, the tree and her blue-green branches shimmered in sunlight.

I see you coming home from work. You pull into the driveway in your new black sports car with the top down. “Hey babe,” you smile. “I’m home.”

When our home turned into ruins, the tree remained, casting dark shadows against a moonlit sky. I returned to the house from wherever...another outing, another lonely night. Seasons passed...from wife, to widow and single parent, to single woman and her dog.

In winter, crystalline snowy boughs gracefully dipped to the ground and winter wind sang its sorrows. In spring, rain pelted the rooftop in unprecedented downpours. The tree morphed into a towering 35-foot behemoth, dropping ridiculous amounts of pine cones and needles onto the lawn and driveway. Slowly, irrevocably, she precariously began leaning her huge girth toward the front lawn.

“It could last another twenty years or go next winter,” the tree guy said. “It’s hard to tell.”

Why risk it?

This week I watched her branches sawed off, one at a time, the amputation permeating the air with the smell of Christmastime...her trunk ground into wood chips and unceremoniously blown into the cylindrical coffin of a tree-trimming truck.

“You did the right thing,” the little boy who is now a man said when he came over later that day. He surveyed the stump where he once danced. “That tree was a mess dropping pine cones and sap."

The things I remember are not what he remembers.

“No more trees,” I say. “I’m done with trees.”


Life is saying goodbye. Seasons come and go, people live and die. Writing stories ensures that we have walked this earth. We chronicle the milestones through journals, memoirs, fiction and poetry, hoping to find sense in it all. We even chronicle the passing of a silly tree as though by remembering, we keep it alive.

No matter how hard we might try, no one lives forever. And nothing in life is guaranteed.

Somehow, this is the story I keep writing. “Hey babe," I hear you say, but when I open the front door and step outside, just open sky where a tree once stood.

How about you? Have you taken an ordinary moment and let the writing lead to discovery?

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