A Love Letter to Trees
by Ada Limón
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Pub Date 27 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 29 Aug 2022
Scribd, Scribd Originals
So many of us have a tree we treasure in our lives or a preferred stretch of woods to retreat to, especially during these long and confining pandemic years. Ada Limón, award-winning poet and beloved host of the popular podcast The Slowdown, has kept a catalog of cherished trees that have grounded and inspired her throughout her life; trees that have marked time and place and have expanded meaning about what it is to be alive on this planet. Here, in a piece that is equal parts a tribute to nature’s power and mystery, boldly confessional memoir, and honest reckoning with our world’s beauty and its many upheavals, she takes the reader on a tour tree by tree, from California to New York City, from Cape Cod to Kentucky.
There’s the grove of eucalyptus that recalls the sweet turbulence of first love; the mythic bay laurel, “sexed and sensual,” that fills the valley where Limón grew up; there are seeds of trees that traveled to the moon and back on Apollo 16 and are now fully grown and rooted here, acting as if they are no different from any other tree; the fruit trees—pear, peach, orange, apple—that “everyone in her bloodline” has picked to survive, and that her family now grows on their own land because “to own your own tree, to own the fruit you pick, is a big thing.” There are the trees—western hemlock and Sitka spruce—that have helped her through seismic losses, and others—like the otherworldly Yoshino cherry, whose life span is comparatively short—that remind us that everything has an end. And, crucially, there are the many benefits of trees: what they teach us about silence and stillness, about healing and hope.
In twenty-three intimate vignettes, Limón demonstrates, through the force of her passionate intelligence and stunning lyricism, how connected we are to nature and how it better connects us to ourselves and one another. She proves herself to be the visionary of biophilia we all need now, as we confront the ills of climate change. Like the very trees it celebrates, “Shelter: A Love Letter to Trees” is a sensory refuge, and in keeping with the best nature writing, it invites us to slow down in these turbulent and ever-accelerating times, and affirms, often with ecstasy, our place in a natural world that has shaped and sustained us over the centuries.