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~ Orannhawk 

In the early winter, I stood at the edge of

my property, taking multiple photographs

of an old towering hackberry tree on the

adjacent lot. The usual thick canopy of

leaves was lessened by the crisp winds, 

exposing the heavy vines intertwining

throughout the branches. Wrapping and

overlapping the structure of the tree, they

climb and manipulate their way, oblivious

to the tree’s nature. Twisting, and often 
braiding into the other vines, it becomes

aggressive and oppressive.

The photographs were meant for reference,

a need to paint the twisting arms wrapping around the tree. According to the crew doing renovations on the home, the new owners plans included removal of all the older hackberry trees in the yard. I naively assumed their removal would be completed before the shiny new roof was in place. I snapped countless photos, projecting a series of paintings highlighting the twists and turns silently binding the old tree.  

Spring arrived, and the wisteria bloomed. Each breezy touch sent tiny flowers scattering across the yard, leaving random splashes of purple and white among the blades of grass, and later floating in the ankle deep remains of thunderstorms. Thin green vines crept along the edge of the fence, long strands snaking into my yard, oblivious to the lawnmower blades or the subsequent weeder.

Three weeks before the official day of summer, gusting winds joined with the storms, leaving a deep split in the trunk of the tree. The wide gash sent limbs plundering down on my home, forming a tripod jungle of densely leafed limbs and vines that remain precariously perched between the ground, the remaining 
tree, the roof and the side of my home. The vines range in size, from the diameter of a piece of straw to that of a mason jar. The delicate, fragrant blooms of the wisteria nestled high in top branches are a sharp contrast to the ominous vines and the destruction laying below. Left untamed, the vines become predatory, and will eventually strangle a tree. The continued pressure of the vine, with the increased moisture from the vines to the tree, increases the likelihood of pests, disease and the eventual demise of the tree.

I stood, just under the canopy, staring at the deep wound in the tree trunk, willing the limbs to stay steady as I documented everything. The risk remains, as rain conditions increase daily. My lemon trees stand beneath the threat, as does a small garden filled with surging plants, flanked by herbs and petrified wood and rock. My house hippo longs to walk our usual pathway. She pulls against me, taunted by the squirrels who are currently in rapture over the jungle like expanse. The trade-off for my sweet pit bull is a cheese stick and a few sugar snap peas, although she throws a strong side eye to the chatters of the furry inhabitants.

Like my sixty some-odd pound beast, I am drawn to the tangled, twisted remnants. The vines that seek to claim possession of the old tree snarl between its eventual downfall and cradling the remaining heavy limbs and branches. I will paint it, at some point. It’s important, in a twisted sort of way, to come to a conclusion of the event without the input of the impending insurance claim. Perhaps to simply see it in a new way, a way that heals what hides below the surface.  
Interestingly, yesterday’s morning walk produced another tree from the same yard that split and toppled over the chain link fence, landing upright in my yard like a wooden statue, with a few chunky logs lying tousled around the base.

My Papaw taught me to look at nature in a multitude of ways, including viewing the similarities and contrasts between manmade events in our world and what is presented in a more organic way in regard to animals and nature. I have my own ideas, in my own slightly twisted way of observing regarding the hackberry fiasco. He taught me there are many ways to perceive what is around us, and countless ways of seeing the relationships between nature and the events shaped by the words and hands of the world. Like nature, history presents us with signs that we must pay attention to.

Wherever you are, I hope you areblistening too.