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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #40

Burned Tree, Western Oregon. Ansel Easton Adams (1902–1984). 1960. Black and white instant print. 11.1 x 8.7 cm. Rights and Reproduction: © Photograph by Ansel Adams. Used with permission of the Trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy National Gallery Open Access.

It stood like a cross, corpse, shell of something. A sign of what had blazed by, searing the thin-skinned and vulnerable. Scorch marks, my scars. Bare brittle limbs, my arms, legs. One life, one tree, a many-armed goddess. Something to bow to. Container of balance—the stretching toward sky while sinking roots deep in soil. This tree withstood. Stood for what was and could be. Witness to thrive, fight, die. Always welcoming the cool fog that rolled in from the coast. Tree self. Facing all elements and directions. Tree guide. It stood a bear against an unknown wilderness. Tree soul. It stood a being in and out of time. Now dead and standing in a still-living larger organism. The stories once filtered up and down within its trunk left charred and trapped inside.

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