When my son was four years old (1986), we took our canoe to find blueberries at the island in the lake where we spend many lazy summer days. Although we were both awkward with our paddles, we did finally reach our goal. My son made a remarkable observation, which inspired me to write a poem. Recently, reflecting upon that day as an older man with a grown son, I rewrote the poem and set it to music. I recorded this on an early Saturday morning in my normally noisy study room near Boston. If you listen carefully, you can hear the birds outside my window, and the cars whizzing by on the street. The video was recorded in my kitchen on Father’s Day, 2007.
(EDIT Feb 2, 2021)
In 2012, my friend King Yee posted a video of me doing this spoken word piece at the Roslindale Open Mike. By then, I decided I would call it “The Nature of Time (Statue of a Tree).”
-Tom Smith © 2007
Dipping our paddles into the lake
in a manner more like dual monologue
than scripted conversation,
each sentence punctuated by the clatter of shaft upon gunwale,
my young son and I struggle to master a skill
not required in Boston.
Rounding Whittemore Island we pause,
seeking riches Mother West Wind
places within reach of squirrels, chipmunks,
and travelers whose memories of city streets and automobiles
are exhaled like those billowy clouds, sailing eastward.
beneath a tall pine long void of seasonal change,
perched upon an island
barely large enough to support its massive barkless base,
made smooth by sun and rain,
a distant winter’s wind and snow,
Broken yet dignified, this tree stylishly reflects afternoon sun,
wearing an apron of blueberries at the water’s edge.
Reaching as if to break a foreseen fall,
his thick fractured horizontal arms are ready
for the next Jaffrey storm.
Brothers, this tree and I look into each other’s hearts
I think of time, and how for my young son
time and change are disjoined;
and though there will be many more ways,
how this way we will never pass again.
Tiny arm reaching to gather a fistful of blueberries,
lifting his finger my son declares,
“Look Daddy look, a statue of a tree!”