The Death of a Quercus agricifolia & Rosa's Poetry Archives: Jonathan Assink

I've mentioned a few times how our massive scrub oak is dying. We found out this summer, and we've been steeling ourselves ever since. It's particular malady is an advanced case of phytopthera ramorum, aka Sudden Oak Death. A lovely squashy old couch made it's way into our lives around the same time as the diagnosis and so much of the summer consisted of lying on the couch on our porch looking up through its branches; tracing the course of squirrel & stellar jay through its scratchy leaves and brittle twigs. That and taking little trips into its undergrowth, craning our necks around to see all its gaping cankers, oozing black sap. It feels so incredibly sad, this huge shaggy thing that has meant so much to us, has surrounded us throughout our courtship and married life, just silently dying, and there's nothing we can do. A few weeks ago I noticed that the leaves of one of the main trunks are almost all brown. When the canopy is all brown, we'll know its gone.
The Blight & The Bay
Phytopthera is a blight, related to the one that caused the potato famine in Ireland, which, coupled with the American Dust Bowl provides the best example of why not to practice mono-cropping. But I digress. So our oak contracted this disease through its proximity to the California Bay tree, which acts as a vector of the phytopthera, spreading to the oak through rain splashing from tree to tree. The sad irony is that when our oak is cut down, the only tree left in that area will be the bay tree and we'll have to keep it, as it will be the only screen we have from our neighbors.
The Wake
We decided that one of the ways we could enjoy our oak a bit before it goes is to invite friends over and eat out underneath it together. Thus, the first in our series of little dinner parties, commemorating A Good Tree. And we did eat outside, oak-arms enveloping us in the gentle Indian summer night. Joann, The Allens, Jonathan & Jon were all celebrants, presiding over the table filled with leek tarts, roasted veggies & other autumnal offerings. I guess they're all bloggers, but I don't think that's why I invited them. Anyway. A nice night. We'll have more as the months progress.
The Poem
Jonathan wrote a poem about our oak, which I thought was very nice of him. I promised to post it, so here it is.

Ode to the Death of an Old Friend

do you know you are dying
you don't look like you are
you look strong and healthy
your branches like arms
stretching to the heavens
maybe you are already on your way

do you feel the changes
maybe you are confused
maybe you think autumn is coming early
that it is the world
which is changing
not you

maybe you know
maybe you have heard
in the whispers of your visiting friends
in the feigning glances of passers-by
or in the wet eyes of your neighbors
or maybe you just know
as sometimes people do
take heart and know you will be missed
it may not be much comfort
but we will celebrate your last days
sit in your shade
and watch you sway in the cool breeze
and we will curse the sweet smelling assassin
who brought your demise
farewell old friend
you are leaving much too soon
-Jonathan Assink 2008

The irony here is that I have no photos to post as of yet of our oak. It's particularly ironic because Jonathan is our church's resident photographer. I'm a pretty wretched photographer, even with digital. It's not so much the aim, focus or f stops, (even if I knew what that was) it's the keeping of memory cards & charged batteries & camera & subject in the same place at the same time. But I'll try to post some pics soon. The above photo was disgracefully shanghai-ed from Heidi's blog, and much thanks (& apologies) to her. It shows B in our living room, looking very blurry after all that fine food.....

1 comment:

Lucy Corrander said...

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(Members of Blotanical may sympathise if I say 'Isn't it Wonderful!')

Lucy Corrander

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.