The Spider Tree died last spring. She had been on the edge for a long time. When the big oaks experience drought, they keep the leaves on the upper branches and let the lower ones die. She looked like a spider with all of her black dead spidery legs hanging down and a few live green leaves on top. Once I found Martin under the tree, scavenging fallen limbs. It was exciting because he had his shirt off. We discussed the ’70s and lost adventures.

The last thing Spider Tree did was, when she shed her old leaves in March, instead of putting out new ones, she just put out blossoms. She was sending the last of her pollen to the other oaks in our canyon, like an old witch bequeathing her herbal spellbook to her granddaughters. I read that dying trees send out carbon to surrounding trees through their roots.

One night the next month the wind was high, and when I passed by the next day, the Spider Tree had blown over.

It’s been a year now since she died. The younger trees around her accepted her offerings. And one night this last winter, we burned part of her limbs in our fireplace to warm our house. 

This spring is different. We had meager summer rains, and in Flux Canyon, less than an inch of rain this winter. Nothing but evaporating drops in months. I drive through a gray ghost forest on my way home. The oak trees always lose their leaves in spring, turn golden, then sprout new leaves and blossoms for a new beginning, but this year, without rain, they are quiet and gray, waiting, hoping. A few have sent out hopeful new spiky leaves, but most, like us humans, are waiting for better times.

“If you listen, you can hear nature is weeping,” said Frank Pole from Flux Canyon.

There’s a long line of spider trees stretching out into the past, each mother giving birth to the next generation. Under the trees sit a long line of ghost people who mourned each tree, ate its acorns, painted underneath them, took a nap. 

Helen is worried about the tree we call the Mother Tree in Flux Canyon, but today I finally saw a little green unfurling from the tips of the branches. Hang in there, Mother Tree, Teenage Tree, Serengeti Tree. We love you.