July Online Open Mic
Sara Collie shares with us her writings about trees and hope. During these challenging times, it’s a good reminder to find life in art and the scenery around us.
I see myself in everything, especially the trees
On the morning in question, I woke up feeling incredibly calm. It had rained all night – I could practically hear the water seeping into the garden doing good when the birds woke me up at dawn with their usual singing. Everything’s growing! I thought. Ah, life! I dozed back to sleep. But then came the morning and I heard another noise which didn’t fit the usual pattern. A neighbour’s handyman hacking away at the beloved lilac bush that leans over our garden filling the air with its perfume every May. Every year I wait patiently for the buds to open. When they turn purple it means winter has really gone and we’ve made it to spring. This is no small thing. I sit outside and inhale their perfume in the dark for weeks. That morning when I went into the garden, the branches of that bush were strewn about the floor. Once he was done with them, the man hacked the branches off the nearby elder tree too, blossom, burgeoning berries and all.
I don’t understand people who cut down trees. It makes me so sad.
Luckily this world also contains all the poems Mary Oliver ever wrote, and there I can see that I am not alone in loving the trees and all their leaves and branches and all the things that live in them and all the birds that perch on them en route to wherever they’re flying to. Luckily, I can flick to the pages of one of her books and find a little solace. Her poem, ‘Foolishness? No, it’s not’ tells of her counting all the leaves on a tree, ‘half crazy with the wonder of it — the abundance of the leaves, the quietness of the branches, the hopelessness of my effort.’ I read it in the cool darkness that evening when I can’t sleep. I remember the lilac bush as it was when it was thriving, full of life. I think about how hopeless I feel now and try to remind myself that this will pass. Of course, the poems are all printed on paper so I’m just another hypocrite in a world full of people saying one thing and doing another. Nothing is ever so simple as good or bad, right or wrong. The stump of the lilac and the elder remain, mangled, mutated, but rooted in the ground, still. Hopefully they will sprout fresh branches. Plants bounce back, often much more quickly than humans do.
Whatever their fate, at the very least, I’ve got a tiny lilac plant that self-seeded from the hacked apart bush growing in a pot. One day, years from now, when its grown and blooming for the very first time, I’m going to sit underneath its branches and whisper Mary Oliver’s poem to it in the dark.
Sara Collie is a writer and wandering soul living in Cambridge, England. She has a PhD in Contemporary French Literature and loves gardening, wild swimming and walking in the mountains. Her writing explores the wild, uncertain spaces of nature, the ups and downs of mental health, and the mysteries of the creative process. Her poetry and prose have appeared in various online and print anthologies.