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Lions Roar : May 2014
PHOTOByVLADIMIRAMAgACHAN Oak and maple, palm and pine—trees are our closest neighbors and most patient teachers. henRy ShukMan on the common roots of people and trees. there is a caBin in the remote mountains of northern New Mexico that stands on the side of a steep, wooded ravine. It is hidden deep among the huge ponderosa pines that thrive in the high air. Near the cabin, one lone dead pine soars a hundred feet into the sky. It has been dead a few years now and is known as the “Corkins Tree,” after the cabin’s last owners, and there’s a story attached to it. The Corkins lived in the cabin for many years and stayed on even after they had sold the property to a friend of mine. They became good friends with him, and my friend was intrigued by the way the husband always referred to the then healthy giant pine as “his tree.” “We’re close,” he used to say. “I swear, the day that tree goes, I go too. And vice versa.” My friend took this prediction with a pinch of salt, being a level-headed businessman not given to hyperbole or fanciful sto- ries. Finally, the Corkins’ health deteriorated to the point where the altitude and cold were no longer tolerable, and they moved to Florida for their final years. My friend used to visit them there when he could. One time, he arrived to find his friend bedridden, clearly on his last legs, hooked up to oxygen and past speaking. They had a silent tearful farewell, and he flew back to New Mexico. As he approached the cabin, he noticed that the big tree did not look well. Its needles were yellow and thinning. Sheets of its dark bark had fallen away, exposing the silver wood beneath. One large branch had cracked and fallen. There was no mistak- ing it: the tree was dying. In fact, it was already dead. It never again put out new needles, and today it is a magnificent, lofty Tree of Wisdom henRy ShukMan’s latest collection of poetry is Archangel, published by Vintage. He is a Zen teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage. SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2014 29