When trees come back



Trees believe in reincarnation. After they die, they lumber back into our lives as boards, books, and toothpicks.


Trees spend their lives holding out their hands to birds, calling them to perch or rest. In their second lives, trees come back as chairs, inviting us to sit down, offering an arm to grip, attending to our conversations without remark, and sharing in our silences. At night, we nest in tree-made beds, hatching dreams like eggs.


In their first lives, trees provide banquets for the birds: beetles, ants, and caterpillars. When they return as tables, we flock to them and find the food and wine that fill the house with love and laughter. And we keep their perfect splinters in a jar to pick our teeth.



Some trees become the bones of houses, use their strength to keep the roof over the heads of all who have forgotten them. Others are the doors of daily life, sliding, slamming, creaking, opening, shutting us in and out. They make a place of quiet for one and provide the lock that opens love for two. So many secrets hinge on them.



Trees write the world’s story on their leaves. In fall they send the pages down, though few will stoop to read them. They tell the tale every year as if it were the first time. Coming back as books, they do the same, waiting on the shelves, leaves and leaves of stories falling into minds who stop to read them. And every telling new.

Trees who spend their lives trying to catch clouds come back as poles to hold the wires words squeeze through. A hundred years ago or more, people spoke with patterned sound, tapping news of wars, births, deaths, and regrets, like birds tapping on the bark of trees.


When taps and codes were not enough and people phoned their voices, the wires sang and hummed with promises and lies, rang with jokes, the murmured shame, or disconnected lovers; a goodbye click, the end of every story.


These unleaved trees with straightened arms, stand without a whisper, yet call out to the birds, who return, like acrobats with wings, to balance on their wires. In that other life, when poles were trees, they learned the art of listening from crows complaining of the rain and winds whispering of angry clouds to come.



Fewer voices travel on the wires now, but these poled trees do not complain. They shoulder power to brightens our lives as they once carried the luster of sun on their shimmering leaves.


When trees return a second time, they hold us, shelter us, offer us a place to lay our heads, bear the words that tell our stories, give us room to live, shut out the world of noise, and listen, always listen. When trees come back, they yield to our sharpness and our desire to measure and control. In the quiet, when we leave the room, they dream of rain, wind, and bird song; each tear falling softly as a feather on snow, lost by a winter bird in flight.



45 thoughts on “When trees come back

  1. Thanks for letting me know someone else is nuts for trees. They are so much wiser than we are. For reasons you’ll deduce, I had to smile when I saw the topic. Trust the cosmic coincidence brings a grin to your face. In the meantime, Leaf long and prosper!

  2. Imaginative and poetic.
    Did you see the episode of Northern Exposure where Adam was listening to trees for the news of the world/coming events?

  3. A dream of mine is to one day run the Avenue of the Giants marathon through the redwood forest. It will probably be my slowest race time, because I will want to stop so often and look up at the grandeur. There is something almost holy about standing in a forest of trees.

  4. This was lovely…I like the image about trees writing our history on their leaves, leaves as pages. I was just in my garden and was clearing up all the dried stories. It’s hard to believe that in less than a month all the trees will start writing the tale of a new season.

  5. Each of your postings is a miracle of perfectly constructed prose … fluid and alive. And each contains a Zen-like awareness of all the miracles contained within the simplest things. Like trees. … which are so omnipresent, we hardly ever pause to notice them, unless they’re throwing blossoms to the wind or bent over with fruit. Ordinary trees which you have restored to their inherent magic … with this post.

    Thank you

      • You will probably need to go to Michigan to find out!

        But I actually feel sorry for Mitt for this one. One of the things about Virginia is that it is full of thin tall trees. In Connecticut where I was raised there the trees have huge trunks. We had a willow in our yard that was so big that it took 10 of us holding hands to circle its trunk.

        I bet Michigan trees are like that too. Poor Mitt.

  6. I like the idea of trees writing the world’s stories on their leaves, in addition to the stories they leave in their rings. As I was reading, I was reminded of “The Giving Tree,” which gave and gave without thought of return. You have shown that all trees are giving trees.

  7. the Urbane Cowgirl

    “In the quiet, when we leave the room, they dream of rain, wind, and bird song; each tear falling softly as a feather on snow, lost by a winter bird in flight.”

    Wow. Just……….wow. I think this piece made my writing desk verklempt, but it will never let on.

    • I know you create beautiful art that portray trees in all their glory. And I so appreciate your concern for the environment and how you live out that concern. Thank you for that.

  8. Eagle-Eye’s post prompted me to check out your blog and I definitely relished your posting about trees. Trees and the sea. Gotta have both to make my world go right.
    Happy Pages,

  9. When I am here, in the east, I miss the height and grandeur of the western mountains. When I am there, I miss the trees that grow like weeds back here.

    My goal is to live in the Eastern mountains, where there are plenty of trees, and some hills that are big enough to feel like mountains, even though they are much shorter, and hard to see for all the trees:)

    Thanks for your beautifully expressed sentiments yet again.
    It was breathtaking.

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