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Fallen Catalpa Flower, micron pen and watercolor by Stephanie Thomas Berry

Fallen Catalpa Flower

      Grandmother Catalpa - Stephanie Thomas Berry

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My Catalpa tree is in full bloom.

The tree herself is huge—everyone who knows trees and has seen her professes she is the biggest Catalpa they have ever seen, which of course this means that she’s pretty much the oldest, too.. Her branches are thick and curvaceous; her leaves are giant green hearts.  And right now she’s covered in buoyant clusters of white flowers.

My Catalpa tree is in full bloom and it’s breathtaking and it’s heartbreaking, because the Department of Transportation might cut her down. In winter of 2018 they will be rebuilding the bridge that crosses Upper Brown’s Creek, and she is rooted directly upon the survey line for their right of way. The jury is still out, but this may be her last bloom.

My Catalpa tree is in full bloom and I sit under her thick arms and watch the flowers fall soft and white to the ground. I recollect a manga story my daughter was telling me about just yesterday, in which people would swallow special tree seeds and the tree would root in their bodies and give them special powers. They would actually become part tree, part human.

My Catalpa tree is in full bloom and I sit in the shade of her wide-palmed leaves and she pours herself into me:  all that she has seen, all that she has become. A hundred years of storms that she has weathered. The woodpeckers that have carved nooks in her arms. The bluebirds, the crows. The rains that she has drank, the sunlight that she has consumed, the song of the creek and the song of the highway ever part of her; the clouds, the roots, the dusk and the dawn.

My Catalpa tree is in full bloom and as the bees hum around her she sighs. She dreams of the long beans of seeds she will make. They will hang from her branches like strings of green pearls.

My Catalpa tree is not mine but I will gather her seeds, it is as if she has willed me this service, it is as if she has taken root in my body,  it is as if she has steeped the air with her presence and I breathe it, her sweet exhale, laced with tree-mother-love, I become green-hearted and wide armed and I will plant the seeds, and I will breathe upon them, and we will sigh with love: grandmother, grandmother, grandmother. 

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