On my last day at the Reader, I yield the floor to fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry, from The Country of Marriage (buy it, you won't be sorry). Years ago, this one resided on the wall of our downstate outhouse, which looked out on just such a tree. Don't read it too fast.
THE OLD ELM TREE BY THE RIVERShrugging in the flight of its leaves,
it is dying. Death is slowly
standing up in its trunk and branches
like a camouflaged hunter. In the night
I am wakened by one of its branches
crashing down, heavy as a wall, and then
lie sleepless, the world changed.
That is a life I know the country by.
Mine is a life I know the country by.
Willing to live and die, we stand here,
timely and at home, neighborly as two men.
Our place is changing in us as we stand,
and we hold up the weight that will bring us down.
In us the land enacts its history.
When we stood it was beneath us, and was
the strength by which we held to it
and stood, the daylight over it
a mighty blessing we cannot bear for long.