"It was a tree, and there was one leaf left on the tree, and I wondered: 'Wow, if you can make it through winter, you may be here until next year. Wouldn't that be great, if you were just the only guy that hung on?' I guess you could say everything's a metaphor for everything else, but sometimes it's just what it is. It's just what it's about—about a tree."
Tom Waits in an interview by Jon Pareleo, NY Times October 23, 2011
A Grizzled Troubador Dusts Off His Bowler
Two days ago it rained and I drank coffee, looking out a bay window without curtains at one branch of an apple tree we should have pruned in the fall. What had bothered me for months took on a beauty and a sadness, this tangled cross-hatching of too many thin branches, guaranteeing no fruit for one more summer.
Maybe I was making too much of a natural phenomenon, but I began to see each raindrop being held by the tree as tears not shed. Not just mine, but the tears of everyone, just living day to day. From small disappointments to cruel words to lonely hearts and sad mothers1. Each drop glistening, waiting to fall and disappear, hit the ground, get lost in the aquifer, bringing new life to this tired old world.
The next day, dazzling blue sky and the sun was shining in February cold. I drank coffee and looked out of the same window, at the same tree. The branches were bare but I remembered how yesterday they gently held a story in each raindrop and how oddly beautiful yet overwhelming that possibility was.
1. Billy Collins reading The Lanyard.