What I will miss most are the trees.

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A VG Serial: Jory Sherman’s Hills of Eden

Episode 38

It is hard not to think of the trees here in these hills as friends.

I hear them in the morning as they sing their green songs. I shake hands with them after I have had my half cup of coffee sometime after dawn. They make me smell good after a night’s sleep. It must be that their fragrance seeps through the open windows and soaks into my flesh during the night. These are the cedars I’m talking about. They are

everywhere on this jungled farmstead, all sizes, shapes and personalities.

Some are big enough to make you feel small. Some are young and tender, afraid of being turned into fence posts, kindling, chests, walls, Christmas trees. Some of them are gnarled by the wind, homely in their bending.

On the high ground above our small pond, they get the brunt of the hard weather and heavy snows that flock their branches in winter. Others are confident and smiling, arrogant toward the deciduous oaks and hickories that stand as towering neighbors. Still others are comfortable, like old chairs, happy to have us stroll among them, glad to have us sit sheltered in their shade.

These cedars are special to me, with their rough, scratchy fingers. Yet their touch is as comforting as any delicate hand. When they are laden with the tiny blueberries, they seem proud and pregnant, radiating a silent reverence for life.

Some of the old cedars bear scars. These wounds hurt when you touch them because the imagination is more powerful than sight. I have seen the cedars bleed their amber blood, seen the sap eke out, catch the sun until, saturated with light, it shines like a jewel.

In their soft songs, when their branches are played by the wind, the cedars are green-gowned ladies in a Victorian garden; in their deep-throat bass humming, they are stately gentlemen in chorus, stalwart singers of a time gone by in a faraway land.

On a spring morning like this, the trees are almost ambulatory in the shift of light. They seem to move like viridian chess pieces in the forest, fragrantly subtle, and with great feeling, a feeling that surges through you when you come close, listen.

A periwinkle sky and the hills shimmering in the sun conspire to light the cedars up like aquamarine candles. Green fire, like a million emeralds shattered into shards, splinters over the ridges, the slopes, until even the hollows blaze with a dazzling light. Heady scents scrawl invisible tracks down the slopes on vagrant zephyrs that thread through this valley, transform it into a constantly changing tapestry of wildwood.

I have seen those humble cedars sleeping at night under a full moon as though they were statues of people in a garden. I have felt them whisper against my fences in the darkness, swaying green islets floating anchorless toward shore. It’s an affirmation of life to see them stolid in the dark, pewtered to a dull silver by the moon, a shelter for birds and beasts, a haven for life both wild and tame.

I like the cedars because they are not native to the Ozarks. Because they are considered homely and useless, and because they grow so fast and so thick on these hills, not many people like them. I do. I like them because I can see into their hearts and remember my mother’s cedar chest and the soft colors of the wood grain, striated like a western sunset. I like them because they give up their full fragrance only when they are dead. Their aromatic scent lingers for generations.

Do the cedars pirouette in circles like ballerinas in the dusk? Do they surge up and down the hills, or stand, still as sentinels, for eternity?

I don’t know.

Light is shadow, color is shadow. Goethe believed, and perhaps he was right. We cannot see all that exists, we can only determine existence through our senses and through intuition. Shadows of things, hidden windows in the fabric of a complicated, tumultuous universe.

The cedars move for me, in and out of time, deciding memory, captivating thought, stirring desire, roiling up unseen things for the eyes to probe, prodding the deepest instincts of the restless, searching mind. I rub their cocoon-like bark and feel the sting of their needles.

I breathe of them and breathe of time past.

I think of the cedar trees here as friends. Newcomers, like me. Yet, here to stay as long as seeds blow in the wind, settle and take root in the soil.

They produce no edible fruit nor nuts nor berries. Cedars are the weeds of the tree kingdom. They are homely and not suitable to build frame houses. People chop them up and use pieces of them for little souvenir boxes or to line chests with in order to kill moth larvae.

To hear some people talk, no one would miss them if they were suddenly uprooted, taken from the Ozarks.

I would miss them.

Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.

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