Woman Sees Passage of Time in a Tree

I was handed this image in a class led by poet Vic Klimosky on “Writing as a Sacred Practice.” Here I was introduced to ekphrasis, the process of using an image as a way into the creative process. It is a Greek word meaning “to describe,” a practice used by poets, composers and choreographers to interpret or express what they see, resulting in a poem, a painting, a story. In class that day we agreed to be present, acknowledged the Spirit as a co-creator and to give total freedom to our curiosity. To trust the process. Each of us were asked to give our image a title and then share it with the group.  We then wrote freely and urgently (without our internal censors) to let the image speak. What was striking to me was how the process brought words that had been unavailable to me.

“Woman Sees Passage of Time in a Tree” came to me in seconds. 

If you look through my gallery of photos and those in my posts you will see a lot of trees, beyond the idealized family tree that has been my masthead.  The tree metaphor is a universally understood symbol for illustrating the structure of kinship.  Each branch an extension of our unique family, made of the generations above and below us.  Examining our roots has been a modern phenomenon made easier by technology and DNA testing.

Trees contain nature’s evidence of the past. Their growth layers appear as rings in the cross section of a tree trunk, record the events that occurred during the lifespan of the tree.

I have mourned the loss of backyard trees that fell as our children left home, forever changing the landscape of family life.  The Hawthorne that saved our 5-year-old from rolling down a hill. The 1000-year Kvill Oak I saw in Sweden, convinced it was the one found in a photo of three ancestors dressed in early 20th century garb, arms outstretched to show the hefty girth of the tree. I have written of planting tiny seedlings in northern Wisconsin as a living legacy to our grandchildren.  My unease of Phil in a rented cherry picker to trim trees high above our two-story home.  Trees have inspired me to tell stories of love, loss and transformation.

Now I am considering the finitude of life—looking squarely at this cross section of tree trunk, seeing the finite number of growth rings before me.  A slice of life with a chronic disease. 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2020 just as Covid brought many unknowns and limitations. Surgery, the treatment that followed and recovery happened in isolation. My expected routines, interactions with family were upended for a time, imprinting uncertainty as a way of life. Much like cancer does. 

I will begin again on these pages to fill in the gap of time and recent experiences—a modern matriarchy remake.

5 thoughts on “Woman Sees Passage of Time in a Tree

  1. Oh Deb. Once again your words take me away with thoughts and images and time and beloved trees. Thanks for sharing about that class and how it helped with words springing forth with your views of treasured time and growth. Keep sharing please. Your words can heal all of us as they help heal you my dear neighbor and friend Lit another candle yesterday at church Lory


  2. I’ve always felt that trees are a symbol of strength. I can’t imagine everything that they have seen and experienced. If only they could talk. We can get an idea by looking at the rings, I guess. Deb, I’m glad you are sharing your thoughts in writing again. Thank you.


  3. Debra,
    I’m thrilled you’re back with your deep and heartfelt reflections on life at this stage of our lives!


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