Church Oaks - Poem by Kelly Kurt
In my imagination it started with an absent minded 19th century squirrel. At least two, too many acorns to recall, were cached for winter.
A few thin pine trees dotted the old church’s grounds then, but the misplaced acorns, only thirty feet apart, claimed their share that spring. So many fates could have befallen the twin oaks as they passed their first years, but the south lawn slowly became shaded. In the blink of the sun’s eye (forty – fifty years.) a pair of towering, gnarled guardians looked down upon the stained glass bespectacled, stone and brick church. Generations of worshipers, heads bowed in reverence, passed each week as the giants, whose girth no two could encircle with outstretched arms, looked on.
One day, the last of fifteen decades of parishioners shut the doors for the last time and left the oaks to their watch. They did not watch alone for long. The oaks and their church adopted a caretaker; me.
For years I tended to the loving restoration of the old building and then the beautifying of its grounds. The magnificence of the enormous trees was appreciated but often took a back seat to the fleeting glory of spring and summer’s flowers.
Come autumn, the squirrels leap from branch to branch and tree to tree, gathering countless acorns, and as their ancestors did some sixty squirrel generations ago, bury them throughout the yard.
In winter, they are even more grand. Retaining most of their leaves through March, they stand as sixty foot, shadow casting points of contrast against the predominantly white background. On otherwise still, cold December nights, northerly winds rustle the dried leaves, making sounds like thousands of whispering prayers from congregations past.
Spring cleaning, after they finally let go of their old leaves to make room for the new, is not spread out over weeks. For some reason, when they decide it’s time, they all come down in just one day. The last trees in the area to bud and sprout new leaves, they are not fully dressed again until almost June.
Last summer, a “super-moon” lit the wee hours of a perfectly clear night. It was so bright that you could find a lost penny in the grass. Through the oaks’ branches and leaves, the light dappled the lawn and the large sandstones that form a sinuous path to the patio. The gentle, warm breezes of night made the patterns of light and shadow on the ground dance in harmony with the swaying of the boughs. I never loved the oaks more than I did that night
About fifty feet to the east of the old church oaks, a three year old is now more than two feet tall. Outside of its elders’ shadows it gets plenty of light and rain. With luck, it too will one day look after the old church from on high.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
I am the live-in caretaker and friend to the oaks.: -)
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