Message from Essex

by Kimberly Wilder

If you own a tree, you have inherited a fortune.
There is no telling how many people old and young have stood under it
and given it their secrets.
It has been witness to all manner of history and fashion and weather.
The tree is a universe of insects and birds who live in it
or depend on it again and again for safe harbor.
Your tree is a symbol of everything careful and steady.
It is many pounds of precious substance which someone forgot to measure and horde.

Each tree you own is a treasure.
You might feel that new trees are not so valuable.
Though, new trees hold endless possibility,
and, it is such a treat to ponder if they rooted there
by some wonderful calculation of nature,
or were planted by a person who thought of the future for you.

You might feel that small trees are not so valuable.
Though, many of them are ancient, too.
I was taught that the Tupelo tree does not grow wide, but in stands.
What looks like a clump of thin branches is
a tribe of people standing firmly in a circle, connected by deep roots.
The Tupelo I lost was 100 years old.

Of course, no one is truly worthy of owning a tree,
and it is an injustice that we try to.
Trees have not been emancipated, so we pass them on thoughtlessly.
It is a cruel trade, paying for a plot of land and releasing with it
these stranded souls.
Trees are the forsaken brides in our system of backward dowries.

If you own a tree, you must guard it jealously.
Especially if the two of you live in a world
full of greed, plastic fences and quickness.
You must honor your tree by studying it and visiting it often.
You must never let anything
–even your own desire for space or your own carelessness–
destroy your fragile dear one.

If you own a tree, you are as a king, or a mother,
someone who holds a precious gift
entangled with a million weighty obligations.
Like a weary mother you must drown yourself in your responsibilities,
so that your joy, too, can wash over you.

Your tree will never dance with you.
But, on breezy nights
it will dance for you and whisper the secrets it has gathered.
In your dreams, it can help you to fly.

Someday your tree will appear as the backdrop in a photo,
or in your memory as a swish of green defining the boundaries of your homestead.
It will stand there, weathered and proud,
the setting for your whole, earthly existence.
And, you will know that you belonged
because there was a tree.


This poem helped Kimberly gain standing in a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers to protect a local wetlands:

Preserving that earth is also important and Wilder has recently brought a lawsuit against the United States, The Army Corps of Engineers and local company, Giannini Construction to block development along Essex Lagoon and surrounding wetlands. The site, she said, is home to a variety of trees and foliage and local wildlife that should be protected.

“I wrote a poem about that, too,” Wilder said. Called Message from Essex, it reads, in part: “If you own a tree, you have inherited a fortune . . . Your tree is a symbol of everything careful and steady . . .

Each tree you own is a treasure . . .

Amityville Record, 10/17/01

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