A phonecall just surprised me at work, conveying gratitude for one of my nature poems — in the most recent Sourland Conservancy newsletter. Long ago, this courageous group had asked for seasonal poems they might use to further preservation in their pages. I had frankly forgotten.
I urge your strong support of these generous people. In word and deed, they honor and preserve one of New Jersey’s most crucial stretches of contiguous forest, and water source par excellence.] NJWILDBEAUTY readers read often of my favorite Sourlands hike, off Hopewell’s Greenwood Avenue. This post holds the link to newsletter, with that poem in place: http://sourland.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Sourland-Journal-Autumn-2016.pdf
My current dwelling is surrounded by imposing ash trees. This year, probably for drought reasons, — instead of their leaves turning boring seared brown– all these monarchs represent the new gold standard. The light through their leaves is literally blinding, as though glancing off the rare metal itself. I leave my living room to follow the sun in late afternoon, so I won’t miss a moment of dazzle.
As for the white ash tree of the the poem, I never saw its leaves. That ash by the towpath is termed ‘white’; the ones near me in Lawrenceville ‘black’. Ashes represent stateliness surpassed only by oaks, such as the late lamented Mercer Oak, under which the dying Mercer continued to direct the Battle of Princeton.
Usually, for me, nature leads to poems. This time, the poem led to nature.
Published in U.S.1 Newspaper, the man who’d numbered the rings called my editor, the paper’s founder Rich Rein. He politely requested to be put in touch with me. The outcome was a shared hike to his ash, mourning already that the elements were having their way with those precise pencil marks. Ever after, I have called my guide, “Mr. Impeccable”…
It never occurred to me, nor I think, to him, that we could lose our bounty of regional ash trees. Beware, everyone! Even the fate of the sturdiest trees is imperiled by climate change: New Jersey’s ever-warmer winters encourage insects to multiply. As I urge so often, please do everything possible through your life choices, –as in writing editors, signing on-line petitions, and especially voting–, to focus our country’s attention on altering climate change once and for all.
Together, we can bring forth human change for the better, for a change
The Sourland Consevancy chose this poem now, not only to praise ash trees. Their key purpose was to inform readers that we will no soon be bereft of ashes.
These majestic ones will no longer shade; nourish; delight; absorb carbon; shelter squirrels and birds from warblers to raptors; cradle nests; nor fling down a king’s ransom in gold.
The fate of the ashes, the climate, the Planet itself is in your hands.
[I wrote this poem in the year 2000, when thinking in terms of eons was the norm…]
I take the high track
where the path splits
wondering if the felled trunk
remains to block my way
but it’s been sawn
and someone impeccable
has named the tree
numbered its annular rings:
“1872” “1905” “1950”
this enormous trunk
yet a mere two inches
mark years from my grade school
until this year’s tree-death
–faint the rings
and fainter still the penciled
letters naming this compacted
wood — preferred for baseball
bats because it does not crack
my own annular rings
do not bear numbering
CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN