A Tree In China

In Canton, I saw a bald old tree: no way of knowing what it might be, growing through a hole in a sagging roof. I thought of a naturalist who said it was never enough to tell whoever asked that a tropic butterfly came from a caterpillar that lived on plants related to the orange, and in the north, to the prickly ash. Always they pressed him for its name, which was immediately forgotten. And then they asked, "What good is it?" He would have liked to answer, "What good are you?" but held his tongue. What good am I, I wondered briefly, And then I thought, one thing was certain: not as good as an old tree defying all the elements to grow through a swaying roof in China: and here it was: ongoing proof some one loved it enough to let it try to look for the sky by way of a roof. And as we rode by, and I looked back, I knew I would have done the same thing too.

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