I’ve been working in a “borrowed” attic office, seated beneath sloped gable rafters, windows open, listening to the wind sough through the maples. Today feels brisk and blustery, clouds scudding along so fast that the sun winks in and out, blue sky brightening and darkening by turns.
Everything tugs apart in the grasp of this fierce breeze: doors slamming open, papers skirling aloft, apple and magnolia blossoms cascading wildly. The world almost comes uprooted. Un-winged objects and creatures catch air and take flight.
It’s kite weather. Spirit-soaring weather. Hopeful weather. Demanding weather. Changeable, moody weather.
Just around the corner from my house, the biggest (and I think oldest) surviving American elm tree in Ipswich stands. It gives character to the steep curve where County becomes East Street near the river and the wharf. Its knuckled roots buckle pavement and reshape the neighborhood to its venerable I-was-here-first presence.
This tree is much-loved. Artists paint it (amateurs like me included). Photographers snap it. People simply slow down to linger in its magic.
Yet in the past few seasons, its branches have been alarmingly bare of color and life. The town has trimmed it back, in the past, in efforts to save it. Will it survive?
A few years ago, they had to take down another such giant. Dutch elm disease is a parasitic infection that has devastated the populations of elms across Europe and North America. Did you know that the elm is our state tree? And it’s almost eradicated from our landscape.
So the few surviving trees? Each stands as a lonely sentinel, guardian of the silhouette that once commonly warded our towns and fields with lofty height and deep shade.
As pollen fills the air, as the sky changes from moment to moment, I can see the pale tips of buds at the end of some of the elm’s branches. In its spring palette, the sunlight coming through those tender unfurling leaves looks almost gilded. Ethereal. Sacred.
Maybe those buds are enough. I don’t know. But today, that barren tree is limned, just faintly, in a halo of hope.