Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

just a tree like any other ~

I’ve been looking at poetry through a different lens lately. I write the poem — which is always the best first step, when you look at poetry… :) — and then wondering how it reflects my practice. It’s a fascinating process.

I’m one of those people who are more than a little tree crazy. My husband has warned every neighbour we’ve lived by in the past many years NOT to cut trees on our property line, or I may well go nuts. And it’s true — I do NOT prune lightly. Or badly. :) Some of our trees even have names. I mean in addition to genus and species.


So it was no surprise to have a poem about trees materialise on paper (or screen — this is one of those that I think came from a journal scribble, but who remembers…?). What was a bit unsettling was to realise that I can do a timeline of my life, and recognise what date it was by the trees that were important to me.

There’s the apricot my grandmother planted when I was born, the mimosas that used to hang over  Grandma & Aunt Bonnie’s curb, the frangipani in Dr. & Mrs. McIntyre’s yard… all the way to Ramses the fancy pine in our front yard, or the two holly trees in the back.


Buddhism says all things have Buddha nature. Certainly trees must. On my door at work  I have a picture of the tallest tree in the world, a redwood in California. The tiny red specks are people, in the tree’s branches. I can’t fathom such a being — this enormous, centuries-old tree — not having Buddha nature. Or consciousness, for that matter. You’re talking  to someone who took Tolkien’s Ents seriously…

So the Buddhism in today’s poem may seem  more latent than apparent. But believe me ~ it’s there.

A Lexicon of Trees
The apricot my grandmother planted the day

that I was born. She made me fried pies


in her mother’s skillet. I have it still.

The frangipani down the street from the villa

plumeria its real name. White and rose

and yellow flowers. Climbing with the ants

up its twisted trunk, I thought I was invisible.

The mimosa on 8th Street. Into late fall she

offered me feather flowers that desperate year

Perhaps she saved me.

And henna – white flowers in that barren

desert where I made a home, pruning twigs

that also did not fit. So much of love

is like this.

Japanese maple: scarlet against white dogwood

break of bloom. Shallow-rooted, it holds

earth together.

Crape myrtle, cherry red and toddler pink

lace-edged corsage on the front

of a house where love

solved its first puzzles.

It is the way trees mark the verges

of this journey, their own dendritic


blossomspill ​      leaffall        ​barebranch.


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