The Beauty of the Birch

by Keith Waterhouse


This is no chance encounter, I’ve seen you for years. That easterly path approaches this gathering, and I know it well. Your venerable prominence more evident though as you stretch from the wood line, and it’s caused me to climb this knoll and stand beside you. I could gaze at your profile all day with no peripheral. Those dark ridges of your bark reveal your age but I recollect the white magnificence of your youth as you pearled the taupe around you. The oak and maple jealous for sure. Even the sandhill sage must have admired your glow. Your trunk is hearty now and pulls you away from your anchor; a harbinger of the day you fall. Those upper limbs distort your plumb; they strive for a new precipice but shorten your time. A strong gust could surely topple you now. But I would not worry, not worry at all. I will be here to haul you back to the woodshop.

Oh, how I would like to take you now, but not a chance. An everlasting admiration is what I have for you.  Such a fine, sturdy frame for a trestle table you would make. Better yet, a sturdy settee that would easily hold the weight of ruminate conversations. A notched candle trammel perhaps, or a swinging pot crane. Maybe a hanging shingle with wrought-iron hardware for the mercantile. Your trueness undoubtedly the finest attribute of accomplished carpenters. Gladly they don’t know you like I do; they would fell you without delay. If only the elms and oaks weren’t so tall. Or, if the buttonbush could only spread upwards- you’d be more hidden. You stand out quite easily, and I am vexed.

It’s time I go. I take solace in the coming winter for you will be safe- cloaked amongst the deep snowpack.  But come spring, and if a chopped stump is what’s left of you, I will be moved to a doleful predicament.

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