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.