The Family Tree

The Family Tree

In the beginning there was a tree
where all children begin,
for the Tree of Life bears all mothers.
Each soul created, then pollinated,
becomes a budding artist
of original interior design.
The varieties there are endless
but a tree is a tree is a tree.

Families often abandon bad fruit,
the different-than-us fruit,
and fruit often drops far from the tree.
Never quite believing itself to have been
a part of the same branch,
where the blossom in the bud decayed.
To fall was my only escape
but a tree is a tree is a tree.

During the storm of February ’98,
with heavy axe in hand,
I dropped out, cut myself loose
from the family surname
carved deep on the back of my heart.
I left knowing I could never return.
A terrible and wonderful thing
but a tree is a tree is a tree.

In the beginning there was a tree.
A small wondrous tree
that grew up inside a dark forest
of bruised and tangled limbs.
Where bad fruit often went missing
and history no longer hung her name.
No repeats here or so I thought…
but a tree is a tree is a tree.

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2015

22 thoughts on “The Family Tree

  1. Very thought-provoking and excellent as always, dear Deborah. I think, in the future, when people ask me what I do, I might well reply I’m “a budding artist of original interior design” 🙂 As always, my heart pours out when I hear about “a small wondrous tree that grew up in a dark forest of bruised and tangled limbs”. My arms are open wide for a hug and huge compassion. I read an interesting post earlier today entitled “emotophobia”. If you have time/interest, you might want to check it out I’m wondering if you can resonate with what she writes. Love & blessings, Sam 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Sam for your truly, wonderful response to my poem. I’m eternally happy to hear your deeper thoughts and loving reflections and yes, will certainly read the other article. I haven’t heard of that word, I’m guessing it’s about emotional response. I’m so pleased to have posted this poem as the feedback I have received has been incredible and helped me to further understand my own necessary cutting. Thank you once more for your loving-kindness and compassion, received with open arms. Warm winter wishes, Deborah. 🙂 🙂

    1. Yes, if only! From one’s personal family to the human family itself! Thank you so much Taruna for your wonderful, reflective comment.

  2. Deborah thank you so much for this beautiful poem – the photograph is wonderful, the lines as graphic and meaningful. It’s easy to imagine that the severing is painful, and not so easy to see the value of this. But this we have to do, and from the acorn buried deep into the undergrowth, not far from its’ origins, maybe far if its been blown about by wind and storms, it will grow to its full magnificence. Thank you again!

    1. I whole-heartedly agree Susan, so easy to get caught up in the pain, so easy to forget the joy of leave-taking. I love your ‘acorn’ story and recognise how the winds and storms of life threw me about for many a year until I landed by chance (or not!) beside the sea. Thank you so much for your wonderful words, they greatly add to the richness of many amazing comments … all of which help me reflect further on my family tree.

  3. I first felt the axe, Deborah. The pain of severing, amputation, hacking away at what binds. These are skills of the warrior goddesses who know how to cut off what no longer serves.

    After reading Jean’s comment, I thought of how a cutting from a plant roots itself in water or earth so that it can be moved to more nurturing ground. I spent an evening the other night propping up my soul by taking cuttings from a few old Christmas Cactus and geranium plants and throwing out the aging root-bound and root-choked mother plants. Some of the cuttings will die. That’s the risk we take.

    I love that hint that we can never break away. My mother and I broke with each other emotionally when I was 17. It took me many years to accept all the ways I am like her–and to understand how our broken relationship fueled so much of what I sought in life. “A tree is a tree is a tree.”

    Thanks again for alerting me to the video of my husband a few weeks ago. As you probably know, I wrote a blog about that revelation and your part in it. We gather together around our new community trees.

    1. Hi Elaine, ‘The skills of a warrior goddess’ oh I did whoop for joy as I read these wonderful words! Thank you so much for your beautiful comment and response to my poem. Your ‘propping up my soul’ story about taking a plant cutting to more nourishing ground made my heart smile and smile and smile! 🙂

      Initially the guilt of leaving was crushing yet even within the first year I felt freer than I had ever felt in my life. I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s unique take on this family poem, all have helped me hugely to understand why and how I made that life-changing decision. Blessings always, Deborah.

  4. So perfectly expressed – we have to cut away from our roots to become who we truly are, otherwise we drown in the false beliefs and conditioning imposed on us. So poetically worded and a wise looking gnarled old tree to illustrate it – just wonderful!

    1. What a wonderfully expressive reply to my poem! Thank you so much Sophia for reading and sharing your reflections, truly appreciated. I love how you phrased ‘cut away from our roots to become who we truly are’ that’s such a great way of explaining what needs to be done. Richmond Park in London is filled with many incredible looking ancient trees.

  5. I love this poem and its many levels of meaning. And your picture is stunning.

    And I love how you express this truth: that we are all different in some ways from the tree that birthed us. Some of us moreso than others, yet don’t we all have to sever ourselves from the branches from which we come, if only to be able to take root in ourselves and grow into our own, unique tree?

    Whether the severing, and our reason for it, is radical or predictable, devastating or only mildly uncomfortable, physical or mental, it must still happen if we are to evolve into enough consciousness to fulfill our soul’s true purpose.

    Your poem makes the point so beautifully that insisting on remaining attached to the old family tree imprisons our soul and limits our fertility. And your poetic blossoming proves it!

    With gratitude for your voice, and blessings on you and your work,


    1. ‘To be able to take root in oneself’ Ah! See there’s the clear, succinct writer in you Jeanie showing up again. Oh I just love how you are able to put into words what I often struggle to articulate! Yes, indeed the separation is/was necessary, vital even, in order to develop into our distinctive selves.

      Next I read about the numerous ways in which that parting must take place, I find myself nodding throughout. Initially I felt crippled, riddled actually with guilt for breaking loose from the family tree yet once more you illuminate it so well when writing … ‘in order to fulfil our soul’s true purpose.’

      To stay would unquestionably have ‘imprisoned my soul’ and ‘limited my fertility’ … the axe, a necessity in order to find true liberation and listen to my soul’s calling and vocation. You have helped me to make sense of my own words, thank you so much Jeanie! A thousand blessings, Deborah.

  6. This is a universal poem that speaks to the whole world. I like the reiterated line “but a tree is a tree is a tree.” Strongly penned from an excellent poet. An outstanding book that followed me to work. I just watched the guy sitting opposite “google” this book.

    1. Wow! Thank you so much Lizzie for your generous comment, truly appreciated. I’m assuming that you’re on a train? I love the idea that my book is going on a journey, that it’s travelling … and the thought that someone is looking on my website as I type.

  7. This poem makes me reflect on my mum’s relationship with my brother who is also gay. I didn’t expect my dad to be 100% OK about it but he is, it’s my mum whose reacting strongly. She went crazy two years ago and cried all over Christmas, ruining it for everyone because she wouldn’t accept who my brother was and still today she makes fun of him with her horrible jokes. I didn’t set out to write such a personal response but your poem is powerful Deborah and the moving force of it has touched me greatly today.

    1. Lily, thank you so much for reading and letting me how my poem spoke to you. Sometimes a poem can catch us out like that, when least expected. It sounds as if you’ve had to withstand a challenging situation at home for the last couple of years. I’m sorry to hear that your mum is struggling with your brother’s sexual orientation. At times this may leave you feeling sad, bewildered and angry. I am pleased to read that your dad totally supports your brother and that you do as well. Thank you once more for sharing, your reply means a lot to me. Warm winter wishes, Deborah.

  8. Strong opening lines Deborah, I was hooked from the start!!
    This falling-out and not speaking must happen often in families but nobody speaks about it. “A terrible and wonderful thing” reminds me of what you wrote about “holding the tension of the opposites.” I imagine sadness and happiness in your hands as you swung your axe.
    I could not imagine not speaking to my mum, dad or sister. I do remember my friend’s parents throwing him out when they found out about his boyfriend. I guess he was to them “bad fruit” but if we all come from the same tree shouldn’t difference should be celebrated not denigrated. Can I ask where your picture is taken?

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one Claire, thank you for your wonderful comment. ‘Tension of the opposites’ this is so true although I didn’t know about Jung’s psychological rule when writing this poem … what you say makes a lot of sense.

      The ‘tree’ photo was taken in Richmond Park, London, which is a beautiful place to visit in all seasons, especially when it snows and all the deer are running around and you really do feel like you’re in the middle of a Christmas card!

      I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Sadly throughout the years I have listened to many similar stories about how families have ostracised and ridiculed their relations for being ‘different.’ Thank you once more dear poet, Deborah.

  9. Hi Deborah. Going to try to catch up on your poems over the next couple of days. Sorry for the delay.
    I love the fact that with this one you keep coming back to the line ‘but a tree is a tree is a tree’! It’s powerful and punchy and sure as how delivers the message. Love it! Xxx

    1. Thank you so much Bathsheba for all your amazing, wonderful comments on my poems today, truly appreciated. Fortunately I’m also having a quiet, catch up afternoon and so have been able to respond. Yes, that (family) line … integral to the whole poem indeed. Love and blessings, Deborah xxx

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