Earlier versions of this post began, My favorite tree but after numerous rewritings I didn’t have the courage to place my tree in such close proximity to Edward Abbey’s description of a single juniper. With a spare and judicious choice of words, Abbey conveys much, from time of day to character, age, and gender of the juniper, the nature of junipers, a juniper as habitat, and how time passes for a juniper. Abbey’s “favorite juniper” is an amalgam of tree and snag, living and dead, a duality of what we crave and fear:
“My favorite juniper stands before me glittering shaggily in the sunrise, ragged roots clutching at the rock on which it feeds, rough dark boughs bedecked with a rash, with a shower of turquoise-colored berries. A female, this ancient grandmother of a tree may be three hundred years old; growing very slowly, the juniper seldom attains a height greater than fifteen or twenty feet even in favorable locations. My juniper, though still fruitful and full of vigor is at the same time partly dead: one half of the divided trunk holds skyward a sapless claw a branch without leaf or bark, baked by the sun and scoured by the wind to a silver finish, where magpies and ravens like to roost when I am not too close.” (Edward Abbey)
Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll post “my favorite tree.”
What is your favorite tree?
Edward Abbey. Desert Solitaire, A Season in the Wilderness. New York: Ballantine Books, 1978 (30).
Photo from Katie Eberhart’s personal photo library.