The falling rise of grief

Note: On Thursday, February 6, 2020, a National Weather Service-confirmed EF-1 tornado touched down in Spartanburg, SC, running east on a devastating 10-mile course. One casualty, among many, a grand pecan tree that graced the entrance of Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens.


Stately, thou hast stood, withstood time’s test,
year through year unto a centenary,
aye, more of seasons.
From first planting that long-ago Spring day,
to paraphrase Hamlet’s word, to both manner and manor born,
thou hast been through fiery summers,
balmy autumnal breezes,
many a wintry snap of faint-cold,
then again greeting another birthday Spring.

And how rich hath been thine off’rings,
the treasur’d harvest of thy limbs,
falling measure by measure for creaturely pleasure
to take and bake and make Southern tradition’s delicacy.

Now, no more.
Nature’s mightiest blast,
a barreling train of wind and rain,
battered, bent, broke, felled thee.

pecan tree, DOD 2-6-20

I wonder.
Is it I only who notices,
and in noticing, knows,
and in knowing, grieves that thou hast departed?


frolicking squirrels,
nesting birds,
e’en the night sky,
now, fore’er searching,
longing to see thy daily branch-fingered hands
rising in orison’d pleading for a gentle rest ‘til dawn’s light –
lament thy loss
and, in such sorrow,
wouldst try to deny thy death.

Farewell, friend,
for thou played thy part to a most excellent fare-thee-well.

‘Til my last breath –
for knowing that ne’er shall I see
the one to follow thee grow as large as thou wast,
I mourn thee.

4 thoughts on “The falling rise of grief

  1. What a fitting epitaph and memorial to a noble and faithful botanical being. It would be comforting to know how many of the tree’s progeny survive and thrive and how far-flung they may be. (Thank you, squirrels!) I’m convinced that trees possess some kind of sentience. (If you haven’t read The Secret Life of Trees, Ted would highly recommend it.)

    I too mourn your leafy comrade’s loss, Paul. Thank you for feeling and expressing it so deeply.




  2. Paul,

    I can’t add much to what Karen said. Anyone who has been to Clevedale will miss that tree… it was a welcoming and stately presence and I’m sorry it is gone.

    Much love


  3. Thank you, Karen. And I looked up “The Secret Life of Trees,” but couldn’t find a reference to/for it. I did find, “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben, which triggered a memory (which was stirred, too, by the storm of last Thursday and the devastation left in its wake). Several weeks ago, I listened to a NPR interview with Mr. Wohlleben who spoke passionately about his life-change, course-correction from a member of the forestry service in Germany to an advocate for the ecology. His eloquence, in talking about what it was to cut down trees to his epiphany about the amazingly sensitive, indeed, living and interconnected life of trees, moved me deeply. Hence, now that the storm hath come. changing the landscape of Clevedale, I have deeper appreciation for, as you write, Karen, these “botanical being(s).” Aye, yesterday, I said to Pontheolla, “Honey, if you had asked me earlier, ‘Paul, do you think you would mourn the loss of a tree?’, I probably would have answered, ‘You mean the same way I would sorrow at the death of a person or a family pet. No, I doubt it.’ Now, I know differently, for lament the loss of trees, especially this grand pecan tree, surely, I do!”

    Thank you, Loretta. Yes, that tree, with its widespread branches, standing o’er the granite stone, Clevedale 1798, was quite the “welcoming and stately presence.” As I stand on the grounds and look, I, through tears, still visualize that tree.



    1. Yes, Paul. So sorry for giving you the wrong name of the Wohlleben book, but I’m so glad you had heard him on the radio. Sounds like a timely connection to make. Ted read that book a couple of years ago and still talks about it. We lost two massive trees in the yard of the house we lived in before our current house (in which we lived for 23 years), and I remember mourning their loss for a very long time. I had learned much from living so close to one of them and had written about it a number of times before we had to take it down. I feel for you and Pontheolla and all who knew and loved the pecan tree. It’s so important to have relationships with non-human living things; it makes us aware of the web of life in which we have our being. I think St. Francis had the right idea!

      Much love,



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