Concise Prose. Enough Said.
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The Whitebark Pine

By Gary Adams

Before the measurement of time came to these mountains, before the term ‘cascades’ was used to describe this area, a Whitebark Pine sent little purple cones flying in a fall windstorm. Most of the cones were eaten by ground squirrels. But one nut found its way to a small pocket of dried moss on the side of a basalt boulder, in a neighborhood that would later be called 8,000-feet-above-sea-level on Mt. Scott.

The next spring a root began to probe and after a few years a new Whitebark found the size of the world to be about three inches deep by two wide.

After a quarter millennium the tree was 23 inches high, with half the branches dead of winter wind and the others twisted into random, bizarre shapes. The roots were starved for any morsel of humus and, so, probed with slow strength into fissures in the boulder, as far as 20 feet from the meager crown.

What happened to this tree, I found out when I came to this mountain in 1994.

Along the trail was a massive broken-off section of the boulder. It was held from rolling further downhill by the bleached bones of a dozen Mountain Hemlocks. Two switchbacks up the trail, I found the tree. Only one branch was green; the rest resembled driftwood. The rock had split where the roots had pushed furthest into the grain. I imagined the ecstasy when the stone exploded and 500 tons of inertness began to roll downhill. The roots were then exposed to sun and wind.

That tree is an individual, as much as I am, as much as a lichen fighting for its life on bare rock at 10,000 feet. The lichen, the tree, and I show the patterns of a species and the variety of individuals; this is a quality called character, which finds itself by dealing with the like of time, cold, water, dryness, sun, stone.


Gary Adams is a 45-year-old self-employed landscaper who has been published in Fireweed, Letterbomb, Poetry Motel, Illya’s Honey, Curbside Review, Carriage House Review, Full Circle Journal, Square Lake, Into The Teeth of the Wind, Gin Bender, and Sunspinner. He dropped out of Columbia University after three years and, steeped in the Ginsberg-Kerouac legend, hit the road for Europe, Jackson Hole, San Francisco, a commune in the Ozarks, and his current home Eugene. He is active in the local literary guild and goes hiking in the woods with his dogs at least once a week year round.

Gary's short work Allow Six To Eight Weeks For Delivery also is available in VerbSap.

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