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Round as Turrets Red as Love
Poetry as an antidote for homesickness
Homesickness is complicated. Like grief, it refuses to follow any linear path, but shows up without knocking, without invitation. I’ve been waking up in the mornings lately desperately homesick—and homesick, specifically, for the trees of northern California.
They’re not the only things I miss, of course. I miss the cool press of San Francisco summer fog (although my friends currently living with Karl tell me he’s been especially omnipresent and oppressive this year). I miss following familiar paths through Golden Gate Park. I miss the ease of friends who have your house key and your secrets, decades old. I miss the confidence of language, of wielding it without wondering if I’m doing it right.
And yet I feel like I’m not supposed to be homesick. I got what I wanted, didn’t I? I left the States. I landed in Portugal. I shouldn’t be missing all that I left behind, and I shouldn’t be missing it so quickly. Should I?
As my wise friend Melissa says, “Beware the shoulds!” Meaning, watch out for all those self- or society-imposed expectations: “You're supposed to/You should be…” They’re Trojan horses hiding a heavy psychic load of self-flagellation and bullshit.
On a video chat with Melissa last week that was more therapy than catch-up (thanks, M!), she reminded me that homesickness is grief. That just because this particular leave-taking was my choice doesn’t mean I’m not mourning it. Mourning my far-away friends, my ailing mother, my exhausted father, my familiar comforts, my city of fog, and the tree friends I took for granted.
So I turned, as I always do, to the remedy of words to help me work it all out. And since trees are on my mind, trees are what filled the page.
I don’t know if you’re into poetry. I find that when people say they “don’t like poetry,” it just means they haven’t found the right poem yet. Because there are all kinds of poets and poems out there. Like music, there’s something for every ear.
Maybe this poem will hit you where it hurts (the good kind of hurt). If not, I’ll be back to prose next time around.
I Am Homesick Mostly In The Mornings
I miss trees whose names I do not know
year upon year never bothering
to introduce myself, assuming
they would be there when I called
and they were.
Saratoga curving her many arms
to cradle my daughter’s small feet
foster her dragonish dreams.
Monterey Cypress standing backyard sentry
with equal good humor for seasons, saws,
and the lovers’ quarrels of afternoon crows.
Camellia hiding homes of hummingbirds
and fairy wrens, scattering dog-eared petals
at our door like crumbs from a storybook.
Manzanita on the sun-strewn mountain.
Eucalyptus in the fog-soaked park.
New Zealand Christmas Tree on 46th Ave,
marking the orange house as ours.
I miss trees round as turrets red as love
Giant Sequoia. Coastal Redwood.
9,000 kilometres later I learn their names
Ponderosa Pine. Incense Cedar.
I say them in remembrance.
The new trees don’t yet trust me
nor I them. Jacaranda. Louro Cereja.
We have only just introduced ourselves.
Oliveira do Paraíso.
Now we can begin.
Copyright © 2021 LaDonna Witmer