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Words skitter as I plumb my depths. None seem to hang around for my use—as if they, too, were stunned by what happened.

It had stormed that evening, like being thrashed about in a washing machine, with no turn-off switch. An explosive crack sounded; then, the thud and splatter upon the street compelled me to my front window streaming with rain. Barely could I make out what happened. Shuddering seized me—It was my sweet gum tree.

Only at daybreak did I learn the full extent of the damage: the uppermost limb had been twisted off like a corkscrew; its lustrous leaves already crimping around the edges. With such an injury, the tree could no longer grow. The rest of it would have to come down.

Over fifteen years I had benefited from the sweet gum’s shade, its radiant greens and red-golds, its lofty branches, its symmetry enhancing my bungalow, even its gumballs I raked each March until I was unable.

The sweet gum’s demise accentuates the impermanence of life, including my own. Yet, its welcoming limbs, in all seasons, had heartened me, and I am grateful.

There will be another tree to replace the sweet gum, and eventually there will be shade, symbol of God’s protection and care.

Sugar maple tree torches the mottled sky.

Trickster winds nudge single leaf from its mooring.

Like a gymnast, it sworls, down, down, down.

Then sticks to the glistening pavement,

its stem upright,

its hairy veins deplete of nutrients.

Musk saturates the air.

Crows gawk.

Yet decay rejuvenates the cycle of life.

Spring will whisper again under dove-gray skies.

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