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      Today I mourn


      70 years

      ring by ring

      grasping at river rock 

      Breaking through the impenetrable remains of the Missoula flood

      All the while

      reaching up to the sky

      As if in victory

      Never belying the struggle below


      More whole than I will ever be

      in and of and towering over the earth

      Lovingly celebrating

      Or at least tolerating in regal composure

      our climbing touching hanging pulling picking

      Cats and kids and ropes and swings


      And bearing fruit

      And giving shade

      It is the shade I will miss the most


      And the beauty

      I will miss that too

      Sitting, standing staring

      Neck bent to aching but unable to look down

      endless changing songs for my eyes 

      melody of leaf and branch and wind

      backbeat of sun and cloud and sky


      Gone now is your canopy 

      Your crown containing worlds

      Worlds I could not reach

      Worlds I will never know

      You are too tall


      too tall


      And now your reign

      has been reduced to a pile of logs

      Cord wood

      In remembrance I will make a table

      But surely your shelter and beauty

      Your oxygen and grace

      Deserve more


      White snow blossomed every spring

      a delight and somehow, always a surprise

      As if we didn't know the buds would come again

      We too preoccupied to remember that spring always comes

      Too concerned with computers and carpools

      To know for sure what day the flowers always come

      But they came

      And all the while the crows calling too loudly 

      from your heights


      The raccoons, too

      And squirrels

      And bees

      flickers, jays and waxwings, 

      Now where will they live


      70 years ago someone built a house

      Upon this ancient flood plain

      In the wake of a burst ice dam

      On the wreckage left behind 


      Geology warps time

      In ways human minds cannot fathom

      Even tree minds cannot

      But they are more intimate than me with the

      Stones carried by the ancient torrent

      seeking the water that lies between


      Hubris cares little for geologic reality

      We make and build

      And yet there was at least



      To plant a tree


      Was it the pit from a sweet afternoon treat

      Set carefully with love into the rocky ground

      Or was it the haphazardness of crows

      And not man at all


      Eventually, there was tending



      A dream that one day there would be fruit

      And shade


      I only tended for a decade

      With dreams of tree houses

      And meditation havens floating above the ground

      Sitting like a mountain

      Watching the volcanos

      Pining for Loo Wit


      Before me there were others

      What tree dreams did they have

      Countless others

      I wonder what befell the Cowlitz, the Clackamas

      In order for me to be here mourning





      How small this is

      Compared to all the loss

      all the trees

      the forests



      It is a wonder anything grows at all

      Given the tear saturated soil

      Yet photosynthesis carries on

      and there must be, too, some kind of 

      Inexplicable magic


      It is the only way I can reconcile

      The beauty and the horror

      Of being alive on this land



      sweet, tart cherries fell 

      Every year

      Without my doing anything

      Inexplicable magic



      fruit for me and my children

      We were not deserving

      But we were thankful


      My gratitude now has been transformed by

      Chainsaws and stump grinders

      Into grief


      And all I can do is plant again. 



      —Josh Nusbaum, August 10, 2020