Once upon a time a plum tree

Once upon a time there was a plum tree. She was old. No one knew exactly how many rings she had, and she wasn’t telling. She watched a family grow—one generation following the next. She watched grandchildren come and cultures mix. She bore fruit and fruit and fruit. Her arms hung heavy and lovingly over wading pools and chairs made of reclaimed barn wood. Over adolescent tears and emptied bottles of Chablis. She never said no. She always said, “Come…”


She was graceful when other things around her weren’t. She rose up in three trunks, triplet sisters, me myself and I, that split and went their own way not a foot from the ground. In spring she was dressed in white. Paris runways couldn’t outdo her. In the summer she made so many plums they didn’t know what to do with them. She was the dove’s best friend.



A few days ago, a wind rose up. Too heavy and gray and strong for her. It bent her down. It mocked her heavy fruit. It even used her own fruit to undo her. One of the trunks snapped. Crack! Down. Done for. She stood one more night. But the winds came again. They and the sustained drought were too much for her. Funny how the thing you need, can also be the thing that finishes you. Finally a storm! Finally rain! Water! A rush of fresh air! But it was too much, and down she went.


She leaves an empty space. An oddly grieving family. It was just a tree…but is there such a thing as “just a tree”? Of course, not.  The plum will be sorely missed. Time takes so long to make things, then it doesn’t give them back.  But, it does give something back. In her place there will be a cherry one day soon. And next door another plum for company. The dove sits on the fence looking at the neatly sawed remains philosophically, cooing her condolences. Patient. Knowing. Waiting.

We miss the tree, this beautiful plum, that was, of course, both a tree and a metaphor. I’ve kept two discs from the trunk to remind me. One, of the tree. And one, of everything else.


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10 Responses to Once upon a time a plum tree

  1. Janette Gross says:

    Beautiful – thanks.

  2. teresa elliott says:

    So sad and eloquent. Will you immortalize her with some lovely canned goods? Some jams and compotes?

  3. dayphoto says:

    Oh, how I hate to lose a tree! I understand the sadness. Daily life without trees would be so horrid. I love trees, I can stand by a tree (I have special trees) and put my arms and body next to the tree — gradually I start to feel good and whole again. Trees heal us…they really do.

  4. Anna says:

    So beautiful and so sad… Lovely writing, Charlotte.

  5. Janet says:

    So lovely Charly. Beautiful.
    I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox.
    They were delicious
    So sweet
    And so

    • That is one of my favorite poems of all time. I studied William Carlos Williams in college. Read every word he wrote, I think…I embarrassed myself one night with Bob Giraldi in LA, by drinking too much grappa and quoting Paterson. But it turned out not to be embarrassing at all…just one of those weird silencing moments when everyone realizes they’ve heard a beautiful poem. But this one…well, this one is the sweetest. Thank you for putting it here.

  6. cecilia says:

    Just lovely, i do understand how a tree and worse the demise of a tree can create such a range of emotions. And what wonderful plums. I have been thinking about which tree to plant for you this autumn. It needs to be a special tree – you being such a special person. . I know how you miss your home and love where you are all at once. I feel like that too. It is our bond. Thank you for your fantastic comment on my blog today Everyone loved it! Clever you. Have a lovely day.. celi

  7. Mary says:

    A moving tribute to a memorable tree, Charlotte, and I recall their surfeit well when Mia was a tiny baby. I would have suggested my recipe for mirebelle clafoutis but you said the plums weren’t quite ripe. Dommage, dommage, on so many levels.

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