We Write Poems’ Prompt this week encouraged us to think about trees…
The Tree Climber
Falling from a tree —
That’s a memory I lack,
though I wish I had a scar,
almost imperceptible, hidden
on my shin or across my clavicle
like the indent of a seashell
sleeping under the bone —
It would have been an oak,
the strongest, tallest one,
at the mouth of a wood.
A sentinel, centuries, millenia-old.
An attempt at a house
cradled in the upper branches,
(a summer day’s effort
usurped by birds, rain, years)
and messages scratched onto its base:
hieroglyphs copied from textbooks,
a poem once timeless.
My favorite limb wide enough
to stand on, fifteen feet high,
enough for one to be invisible
under thick spring leaves,
enough to be not anybody, not me,
(more like that fifth-grade teacher
who told us, long ago, how she
used to be a tomboy
that recklessly climbed trees)
like her I’d be invincible
against the armies wanting
to infiltrate, aimed stones
at their armored heads,
waited for the last light to drop until,
at every afternoon’s end, they vanished
and I could finally be alone.
The fall was like any other:
a branch broken under the weight
of its age, a misplaced foot —
the ground rising up fifteen feet
to meet my stunned face, my shin,
my clavicle all in one burst of gravity,
and no one there to break that
quick tumble or dust the dirt
off my elbows.
And now I would tug at the scar
sleeping under bared skin,
and say to the one lying
next to me in the morning sun
(because he would ask,
because he would trace it with a finger)
how I once fell from an oak
on an autumn day,
when I was just a girl
who climbed trees.
Look at that beauty. I had never been so excited to see orange and yellow leaves in my life, or crunch on the piles of dry brown ones that have gathered on the peaceful paths through the gardens of La Granja. At home I had always trekked through hills of leaves during the autumns, familiar with their smell that turns slightly musty after the rain, the fan-shaped gingko or oak tree leaves that leave rust-colored imprints on the sidewalks. I would zip up my jacket and walk along the streets of Philadelphia or of New York, burying myself in the looming heights of the city and reveling in the changing weather.
In Madrid there are no such autumns. The high today was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the trees usually stay green until winter, when they just fall off. When I ask Javi about farms where I could go apple or pumpkin picking, he asks me if I’m considering changing to a manual labor job. I explain to him our traditions. He responds: “Wait, so you want to go all the way to a farm just to pick one pumpkin? Why don’t we just go buy one at the supermarket?”
Alas, it’s just not the same… This is the fourth year I haven’t been able to experience the joys of apple cider or pumpkin pie, haunted hay rides or a proper Halloween celebration, costume and all. My favorite holiday. But I must make do with Spain and create my own autumn experience. This means going up north to the outskirts of Madrid to get a glimpse of the changing season in the rural towns.
La Granja is an 18th century palace in the town of San Ildefonso and was the summer residence of the royal family under Phillip V. Constructed during the reign of the Bourbons, the palace and gardens are modeled in the French style after Versailles. The woodlands which surround it are extensive and include even a labyrinth which can be quite difficult to find your way out of if you lose your bearings. (Parents were shouting for their lost children across the tall spiraling bushes.) The numerous fountains which adorn the gardens are beautifully sculpted, but are only brought alive by water two days out of the year.
Pink roses seem to be a theme this season.
How better to celebrate autumn than by flinging about armfuls of leaves with a buddy? That was definitely the highlight of the week.
Another must is tree-hugging. I showed my appreciation to the giant forces of Mother Nature.
And now, this only leaves buying a giant pumpkin, making pumpkin pie, visiting a haunted house, getting a costume, watching a scary movie then regretting it later, and hosting a pumpkin carving contest costume party (which will probably not occur).
Javi: I’m 37 and you want me to host a pumpkin carving contest???
Me: It’s fun for everyone!!
Unbreakable cultural boundaries.