Tuesday, December 17, 2013

LANDSCAPE STUDY #1: Lake Merritt and the old blue gum

downed tree in Oakland, Lake Merritt, November 2013

photo credit:
Wendy Snyder 11.25.13

the old blue gum

In Oakland by the lake a 137-year* eucalyptus tree blew over during the high wind advisory several Thursdays ago. See photo attached of 12-year child posing near the root structure. A dozen kids and several adults are jumping and playing on the large trunk and tangled branches.

Fifty feet from the eucalyptus tree, at dusk on the lake, floating among tules and cattails, the ducks have their heads under wings, sleeping. Tall herons and egrets are still fishing with their supreme elegance.  Silent rowers have night lights and boats gliding over glazed water.

Opposite the downed tree across the lake is an Ethiopian cafe restaurant. Walk in and order the organic vegetable platter to share with a friend. Pinch injera and lentils, swallow ancient spices that have the power to transform like gods. Talk of trances and trace back to discover the thick shedding bark on the body of somatics and how death weaves through the story.

The old blue gum blew over and died November 14, 2013. One hundred and twenty feet tall and 92,000 lbs.* Some cried others breathed a sigh full of eucalyptus fire memories,1991, an autumn day of Diablo winds and 1000s of homes gone.

The old blue gum blew over and died, uprooted in a windstorm. Oaklanders make new paths, climb over the slippery trunk, take photos at the root of it all. No regard for liability, government, or playground regulations they meet at the fallen tree. One man reads. Another talks on the phone. Both recline on branches while a family plays tag, laughing.

This poem was written in collaboration with Wendy Snyder, my friend since we were kids in 1975(!) This poem is dedicated to the twenty people each year who die in California from falling eucalyptus branches, along with the eighteen people total who have died in the past 100 years total from great white shark attacks, as told by senior curator of natural sciences at the Oakland Museum of California, Douglas Long.

* see article: Fallen tree equals fun in Oakland, by Matthew Artz for the Oakland Tribune POSTED: 11/29/2013 04:32:25 PM PST

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