In the season of the cicada, I went seeking a truce between the wounding heat and the inner cacophony. I followed a board trail on a hillside and saw a break in the edge, an off-cutting path slicing through the woods. I left the main way to see what transpired: leaves, leaves, and more leaves as I wound my way through, and then, in a trice, this wounded tree.
Such succour in these cicatrices! All these carvings of cravings, young longing and shorting stabbed and hacked through the bark, memorialized in a tree you will only see if you go where you are not meant to be. The sap bled fresh some times in the past when the tree’s skin was fresh and tight; now it has healed and filled, and the tree is plumper and wiser and less bending. But still, even if stretching and half-illegible, it bears the cicatrices.
Cicatrice. This is French for cicatrix, Latin for ‘scar’; it comes into English as a longer, more surgical word for the same. The written form bears three sickles c c c to cut and two candles i i to burn in memory, and the remaining letters atr e may suggest arte: Vissi d’arte, I lived for art, I burned my candle at both ends and cut myself in the soft tentative skin of society.
We all have scars, of course. Few reach adulthood without wounds in our skin, and none make it without healed cutlines in our minds. I can look at my own trunk and see, southwest of my omphalos, a stretching solder from four dozen years ago, a souvenir of not dying yet. I could have kept my belly skin pristine, untouched into my grave at age one; instead I received my cicatrice and my indefinite surplus years. Remember that: our scars are our memories – so often there would be no us to remember without them.
So I see, off the official path, this tree, with its cicatrices from passing passions. I don’t know who made these marks, and I don’t know what followed; the incandescent moments of youth usually burn down to guttering trunks of wax and weaving threads of smoke. But they make their cicatrices in the growing lives of those involved, healed but not wholly: holes but holy – trenchant moments, the cuts that make the etchings of our lives, the healed but ever-present scars that prove we have been alive.
And behind them and below them and above them, smooth now but still keening, the round places where entire branches once were but are now gone.