I think, said a friend once,
that you were a tree in a former life.
That would explain my deep love of the out-of-doors,
my longing for roots and an inordinate love of homeplace,
my penchant for being a watcher, a witness,
rather than a willing participant in human endeavors.
What sort of tree he didn’t specify.
A pine perhaps? I’ve always admired pine trees
with their towering, pitch-knobbed branches,
their prolific and diverse cones,
their forest-green needles that turn a faded orangey-brown at death,
a different shade of beauty.
I doubt he meant an oak — too mighty and steadfast and regal in bearing,
too impenetrable and strong, treasured for its sterling qualities.
He could have meant a redwood, but my human self is drawn to them in such astonishment
that I can’t imagine being invited to join their ranks.
Perhaps he was thinking of the birch, a water lover, compatible with my Zodiac sign, recognizable for its elegant bark, its pliancy, its delicate greenery,
though I’ve always felt, were I ever to be a tree, I’d be a willow, the weeping kind
that likes its toes buried in the damp earth and its head in the clouds,
a mothering being that bends and sways and waltzes in the wind, whose immense green arms
offer secret hiding places for birds and other small creatures, and children with books.
If I believed in reincarnation, I would believe I’ve been a weeping willow tree,
a habitat, a host, provider of shade and safety, my toes holding the erodible earth,
my leaves breathing, my body a nurturing source of shelter and warmth. This time around,
I think I am simply a mother incarnate.