Save for a few dead leaves caught in its joints, and a few tiny undeveloped fruits attached like nodes to its extremities, the fig tree is bare. The coloring of the branches changes with the temperature, now green, now gray. The whitish blotches on its skin are like age spots, with patterns and lichens and lumps. The tree is both woman and man. Behind the tree is a little shed. Behind the shed are the neighbor’s fir trees, which bury us in needles and branches and cones. Rectangular steps, planted in a gentle curve, lead from the house to the shed. They are covered with moss. About midway along the path, some of the stones are pushed up by a large fig root. This is on the west side of the tree. Other large surface roots radiate all around. There are mushrooms, too. It’s a fairy tale world. Wind in the firs. There is a very old bamboo chime hanging from the fig tree on the southwest side as you near the shed. I love its hollow sound. I think my mother put it there, although I might have been the one. But I know she is the one who first brought it home. The wire it hangs from has long since disappeared into the wood. And so it is like a little temple back there.
April winds —
look up from your prayer,
spring has awakened
the temple bells.
Songs and Letters, April 23, 2008