“radiating light”

arbutus at Francis Point“There are arbutus trees at Francis Point, a grove of them, leaning out to sea, wanting to partake of the cool air off the water on summer days. Mount one and stretch your body along its length. Has there ever been a tree more seductive to the touch? Has there ever been a trunk, peeled of its bark and new, more like the smooth torso of a beloved? Without mark or blemish, asking us to run our hands along its taut muscularity? The underwood is chartreuse, radiating light.

How many times do we shed our outer layers in a life? How many times expose our tender new skin to the world, soft as the soles of a child who has never touched the earth? Looking out my window, I see the bark curling from the arbutus on the south side of my house. Like paint peeling from an old surface, we hardly notice it but are drawn to what’s revealed underneath. Steaming the bark with the pale bulbs of camas would turn them pink as young flesh, beauty for the eye and the palate.”

                                                              from Mnemonic: A Book of Trees (Goose Lane Editions, 2011)

arbutus bark


My tomatoes have responded to the warm weather by putting on their summer growth. I’ve run out of cages — I have about 40 plants this year and have cages for perhaps half of them — so I spent time this morning cutting stakes. Ocean spray branches (Holodiscus discolor) make good straight poles; the Native peoples of this coast used this wood for barbeque sticks for salmon, knitting needles, halibut hooks…. But then I remembered that John had pruned the lower branches of our big arbutus, the one that has a mild case of the fungal disease that has affected many trees in our area, so I went to the burning pile to see if I could salvage some of those beautiful twisty branches.

The wood — these thin sections! — was almost too hard to cut with secateurs. And there are more sturdy pieces of branch. I recently discovered the website of Andrea Cordonier who used a branch to lovely effect in her bedroom — http://www.habicurious.com/?p=3979 — and now I think I might just put some of the arbutus aside to use in the greenhouse we are planning to build this summer. I can see it inside the door, holding a basket of basil, or supporting a young vine.