PAGES OF TIME
by Deborah Elliott-Upton
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
—“Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, 1886-1918
It seems everywhere I turn, people are having their trees loped off at ground level. Judging by their size, these are trees that have been thriving for a minimum of thirty years. It breaks my heart. Trees have given much to humans with their beauty, shade, and wind breaks. By their being harvested for heat and paper sources and for building materials, they have served a lovely purpose. Of all these, I am inclined to think none are more important reasons than another, but I can’t help being drawn to the paper element as one probably most important to civilization’s growth. What if we haven’t had paper? Those slabs of rock being chiseled into would be rather cumbersome to carry and I doubt not easy to carve into, thus less writers and needless to say, readers of the writings.
Have some trees died a needless death? Sure. Many books with little commercial success or worthiness have been published. Too many books have been involved in senseless book burning. And of course, there are all those stories of “olden days” where book pages were recycled for toilet paper.
In California, there is an attraction called Trees of Mystery. A 49-foot tall statue of “Paul Bunyon” is accompanied by a 35-foot tall “Babe, the Blue Ox.” The attraction contains many unique tree formations, giving the name to the tourist stop.
The mystery concerning me and trees are why some trees are left remaining to grace the ages while others are struck down in the prime of the life in a forest wildfire. Why are some woods more revered than others?
Ah, the mystery of trees seems to be the same mysteries plaguing mankind. Some are apt to live into very old age while others die early, many without warning.
What if we used every day to create something worthy of being written on paper for the ages? What if we all wrote like Dickens, Doyle, Hammett, Poe or King? Would we realize the worth of the best writers if all were exceptional at the craft? Or are we only better because there is diversity?
I heard once that Marlon Brandon’s acting career ceased to become what it could have after James Dean’s death. The two seemed to challenge the other to greatness. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were critique partners who aided each other’s work. Truman Capote was influenced by his friend Harper Lee’s writing as was she by Capote’s.
I believe mystery writers get better because their readership keeps expecting more. Doyle brought Holmes back from the dead because the readers clamored for his return. Sequels are made mainly when they’ve made superior box-office returns on the investment. Series of books are only published when the customer keeps buying.
Trees are lovely and I suppose the time has come when not so many of them will be used for paper in this technological age of other avenues. Still, I will treasure my personal library of favorites and hope our stories find themselves worthy of someone’s space on their Kindle, Nook, or, iPhone, and occasionally on a page where the reader can literally smell the love I have put into the writing. It’s there, just between the lines and eased into the margins, a bit invisible like the trees where the pages began.