I grew up in a town named after a tree. Parked beneath our namesake, a centuries-old cottonwood, I wonder at the snow on her branches, wonder at the weight and how much it will take for her to crack. My husband calls her widowmaker, a tree prone to breakage, a tree that snaps, crashing, leaving someone without a spouse, without a partner, without a home. Whenever it snows heavily, he sighs, awaits a call to clear branches, to recover damaged powerlines, cars, homes. Growing faster, consuming more, her channels of roots receive and carry water through soil. Her branches reach upward, transpiring water to sky, an offering.
My dad once told me cottonwood branches break and recover, like a salamander, like a chameleon. A broken stump can regenerate, resprout, regrow. Injury a mere interruption, shapeshifting from green to gold to brown to dust to barren limbs before sprouting green again. Even in this land of drought, this desert in the mountains, the álamo continues her cycle: flourishing, influencing; yielding-breaking-repeating.
The flesh between my ribs trembles from the cold, from my fear of breakage. Of all the things I can’t understand, transpiration reigns: what water carries, living thing to living thing, quenching parched membranes, brittle limbs like cracked-open pores, memory transcending storms, understanding that breakage is not a matter of physics nor weight nor drought. Understanding it’s about invisible fractures, about the vulnerable, unsuspecting devastation that befalls growth: falling limbs, ephemeral secrets transpired to wind, the myth of permanence.
Adrianna Sanchez-Lopez is a writer, teacher, and editor residing in southern Colorado. Her recent writing has appeared in the tiny journal Five on the Fifth as well as The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prose Online, Pigeon Review, and elsewhere.