Poem for Today: Like a Tree

The not-quite-full Beaver Moon shining through the bare branches of my wild black cherry tree, from two years ago.
The not-quite-full Beaver Moon shining through the bare branches of my wild black cherry tree, from two years ago.

I happened to be outside tonight, walking from my front porch to my driveway. The side yard was silvery with moonlight, and the moon isn’t even yet full. I looked up to see this brilliant white light and was surprised to see just the moon up there, without the branching silhouette of a bare tree through which I’m accustomed to seeing the winter moons.

The cherry tree is gone, and I’d forgotten. It’s the one that simply fell to pieces one hot still day last July. How strange that was, followed by my brother’s death, and I’m still finding places in my life with holes from both losses, encountering the dates of things I’d planned to do with my brother, or leaving an event, if there were leftovers, I’d always take them to him because he ate just about anything. My car is a mess, and he always liked to wash it for me and clean it out if he could, just to kind of repay me for running him around and helping him. I think about him every day in these small ways, as I’m sure I will for a long time.

I miss the cherry tree too, though not in the same way, of course. It was so huge, and it was my favorite tree in the yard from the first time I came to look at the house. Wild black cherry trees are kind of like weeds, kind of unkempt and messy they grow where nothing else will and they don’t usually grow as large as this one did, to 70 feet or more. But it was very graceful with strong reaching branches that ended in fountains of weeping smaller branches covered with long pointed leaves that fluttered in the breeze liek a weeping willow, but much larger. In spring it bloomed with a billion tiny white flowers and it appeared snow was falling when the petals fell. Bunches of small green berries would form later in the summer, turning through yellow to crimson to deep red violet. At the edge of my yard in a spot that divided front from back, it was so big that it was difficult to get a good photo of it, and also because there was so much else around it. Below is the top section in bloom. You can see the corner of the roof on the left edge. My house is two stories tall.

The wild black cherry tree in bloom.
The wild black cherry tree in bloom.

It was home to many species including the Baltimore orioles who nested in it each year, and a favorite haunt for wood peckers. Each time I pass the big casement window facing north I see a big open space and lots of sky, kind of like when I moved in and the tree wasn’t as tall. I’m still not accustomed to that much light, but I’m getting used to it. I could see it from almost anywhere in the house, and it left a big hole in my yard and my view that’s a constant reminder of that time, which is why I was a little surprised that I forgot and expected to see the branches when I looked up at the moon.

In July 1999, I came home from my day job and had my dinner out on my deck, studying the tree as I ate, as I often did. That day, the tree inspired a poem, one of my favorites, admiring the tree’s assets as a metaphor for how I’d like to live my own life, in peace and harmony with all that is around me.

I guess the tree saw me through as much as it needed to, and then it was done. I will always remember what it looked like in all seasons and all times of day. I think of the trees around me as I think of my friends, those constant presences that are more a part of us than we realize in the moment. Perhaps they have no chance but to stand where they are, but they learn to bend and stretch and live as full a life as possible in one spot, intermingled with all that lives around them.

“…stand in peace and harmony with my neighbors,…bring shelter and comfort to others indiscriminately,…” I was inspired by the simple existence of the trees around me to write a poem in honor of the way they grew and lived intermingled with all that grew around them because they had no choice. Perhaps that thought is what I have to add to our current discussion about our recent election.

Like a Tree

To live my life like a tree,
to grow steadily from small beginnings,
fervently when possible, and quietly adapt when necessary,
stand in peace and harmony with my neighbors,
bear my fruit appropriately,
bring shelter and comfort to others indiscriminately,
and when my season is over
graciously give my gift to the earth
for the benefit of myself and all around me,
and without fear
patiently wait for my moment to return
in spring.

poem © 2000 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Here in Western Pennsylvania with our miles and miles of tree-covered hills it’s as if someone is painting the landscape with a big brush. Because I am compelled to photograph and paint these colors I run here and there when the morning sun catches the trees, or the purple clouds of an afternoon storm gather behind the brilliant yellow or red of the tree tops, or the evening sun shines, angled, through a grove of trees.

Because I paint Western Pennsylvania, nearly every one of my landscape paintings contains a tree, usually more than one, and often the trees themselves are the subjects. I have gigabytes of photos of trees, just for the trees’ sake, not to mention ones where the trees are the supporting cast. The other day I ran an errand entirely on winding back roads so that I could drive 10 miles per hour and photograph the beauty unfolding at every turn, even if they weren’t particularly good photos; the change had come so quickly that I was completely distracted and it was either that or have someone drive me or I’d wreck my car.

pastel sketch of tree
“From the Ground Up”, pastel on multi-media paper, 6.5″ x 9.5″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I have looked at the maple tree above through my kitchen window every day I’ve lived in this house, but one morning a couple of years ago I followed Mimi into my neighbor’s yard, just across the fence line, no fence, from our yard, and looked up at the tall maple tree from a different angle. What a great view, all those colors and shapes and little bits of sky, I guess I’ll sketch it, I thought. So I did. Thanks, Mimi, for leading me there.

pastel painting of woods on back road
“A Bend in the Road”, pastel, 14″ x 22″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Back in early June 2014, on a lovely sunny day just about noon, I was leaving a morning event and on errands traveling the back roads just for fun, knowing this narrow back road had some wonderful spots. The trees had finally reached full cover in the woods and all along the trails and I simply could not get enough.

You can find the painting above and all my paintings of trees, originals or prints, on my website in Landscapes.

One of the reasons I bought this house was because of all the trees growing around it in this tight little neighborhood, and they gave me such privacy. Work began last year to trim and take some of them down, and I guess we’ll complete next year. Life is change.

. . . . . . .

Enjoy poems about my cats.

Listen to other recorded poems about my cats.

Visit my YouTube site for all my recorded poems (so far).

About my poetry and poetry readings

poetry book cover
“Paths I Have Walked”

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. ACFL&MH invited me to perform a poetry reading and to display the artwork that inspired those poems.

After each show I’ve built a web page with the poetry and art I featured. Please visit, read my poetry and view my artwork. My prior readings have been:

“Paths I Have Walked” in 2007, featuring “Dusk in the Woods”;

“Winter Twilight” in 2008, featuring “Summer Morning on the Creek”;

“Change of Season” in 2009, featuring “Autumn in the Valley”;

“Coming Spring” in 2010, featuring “Spring Comes to a Bend in the Creek”

In 2011 I published a small book of my poetry from these four readings entitled Paths I Have Walked. Right now it’s still available in print—read more about it on my Portraits of Animals Marketplace blog or order it from my website. You can also find it here on The Creative Cat or in the poetry section of my website if you’d like to visit there and read more of my poetry.

I am currently preparing Paths I Have Walked for various e-readers. I will eventually produce an audio version as well, and somehow a version with the slideshows.

All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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© 2016 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!




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2 thoughts on “Poem for Today: Like a Tree

    • November 13, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks for visiting Lisa! I think we can always learn things from nature. You can tell I love trees too, maybe almost as much as I love cats.


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