Passed daily on my way to anywhere—
The world’s most beautiful tree,
Stately, spreading limbs, shading
Cattle on hot summer days,
Praying to the sun through winter’s dormancy,
Rustling leaves in a fresh spring breeze,
The symmetry—the shape—taking my breath,
My admiration, my appreciation, my awe.
Set in the valley downstream from our pond,
Water and sunshine in abundance,
A monument along the highway,
A monument to life, the perfect cottonwood tree.
But not quite.
Mired against a culvert passing beneath the pavement,
The roots incomplete, impossible to anchor against moving water
Or against steel.
One night rain poured in sheets
And the wind blew.
The gale caught those beautiful boughs and
Toppled the tree.
The entire tree.
Next morning the sun shone on the ruined giant,
Uprooted by wind where the roots found no anchor.
I cry for the tree. And I wonder:
How many times have I been seduced by the
Appearance of perfection?
How many times have I basked in the seduction
Of incomplete beauty?
How many times have you?
Have we all?
In the dearth of the stately tree,
May the dry crumbling leaves
And the severed roots and branches
Remind me that beauty may beckon
Though it is flawed with hidden imperfections.
Monuments which steal our devotion
May crumble in life’s storms.
Beware what we revere lest a wind come
And topple the monarchs we extol.
Nothing, but nothing, is without a fault
Waits within that which is most alluring.