Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 21, No. 2, 2022
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Robert J. Lewis
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Louis René Beres
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Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




R.J.Andres, Ph.D, is a retired Long Island, New York, mathematics and English teacher and author of numerous math textbooks.


I like trees because they seem more resigned to
the way they have to live than other things do.
I feel as if this tree knows everything
I ever think of when I sit here.
When I come back to it,
I never have to remind it of anything;
I begin just where I left off.
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! chapter-viii, part-ii,1913


Archaeopteris, while fern-like and extinct, is considered the first tree. While today’s ferns are said to be living fossils that really have changed very little for hundreds of millions of years, they are, surprisingly, directly related to the other 500,000 species of earth’s plants.

In speaking of species, we cannot ignore Charles Darwin who wrote in his Origin of the Species that in the tangled web of evolution there was a common ancestry and continuity stretching from fish to orchids to elephants to dragonflies, to bacteria, to all other species, and to us, humans. Of course, saying all of that does not explain the puzzle of how today’s flora actually evolved over the past 450 million years.

Nevertheless, today’s science can illustrate how species are not only related to each other through DNA and protein structures but also to Willa Cather sitting quietly under that familial tree.

Trees, standing alone, seemingly orphaned, are never so openly applauded and adopted as when a writer like Willa Cather sits down and writes of her connection.

While not in any sense was she an 'evolutionary biologist,' Cather in that opening citation was simply feeling the intimate link to all trees.

Nonetheless, in celebration of trees and despite Joyce Kilmer’s gentle counsel in saying “I think that I shall never see/ a poem lovely as a tree,” I offer the following:


From my neighbor‘s back yard
there is a brooding black walnut tree
hunched over our common fence.
This is a tree that knows me quite well.

On my side of a long, high, dark-green hedgerow,
in almost single file,
marching down to the aptly named Willow Pond,
are several tall airy maples,
all sharing the sky
with a number of self-propagating sassafras,
a large magnolia, and some senior oak trees.

More than just “being there”
or knowing their place,
more than just anchored or “resigned,”
these trees are an everyday theatre of improv.
And there are moments in every day when I can listen
to all of them caught up in some sudden breeze
engaging in wireless colloquial chatter
about the company they keep in the canopy --
their air-bnb for guests with feathers or fur.

Reaching back more than 300 million years
into paleo history,
there’s a proxy record retained in the fossils
showing that ancient ferns from the Devonian time
expressed a compulsive flair for creative survival.
Hence, in a stroke of evolutionary genius
genetic memories for renewal and rebirth
were cleverly outsourced in the hard drives
of corms and spores, rhizomes, bulbs, seeds, and tubers,
as well as the splaying roots of trees.

Thus, it seems to me, that
more than just a good listener,
more than sentinel, symbol, or metaphor,
trees are us:
stubborn, defiant, creative,
hugging the earth,
eating the light for life,
inhaling the wind,
and sighing at night with a passion for the stars.

also by R.J. Andres
Portrait of Black Hole
Two Poems













Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


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