Traditionally, the oak king was a sacrifice, given half a year, or seven years, of the high life, then summarily cut down to make way for his heir. That being the case, I don’t know quite what to make of having the appellation handed to me when I still have much I hope to accomplish in the time I have left to me.
So rather than accept tradition, I’ll do what I often do in my books when a piece of folklore I want to use doesn’t quite fit into the particular context of how I want to use it: I reinvent it. Here I’ve taken a stanza from an older poem of mine called ‘The Calendar of the Trees’ and expanded it to six for a longer exploration of the ideas of oaks, autumn, and mystery.Be well and live full lives.
Oak am I and I burn green in midsummer.
I speak in smoke hill to hill and
wave to wave to court the summer storms;
my roots run as deep as my boughs reach high.
Oak am I and I open the door into the green world
when autumn gathers the cloak of winter
and draws its white folds across the summer hills;
my sap quickens the dreaming king in his barrow.
Oak am I and I bear witness to the salmon
sleeping in the shadows pooled beneath my boughs.
I am the ravensong and the harp of the red wolves;
my seeds wake the drum of the white stag’s hooves.
Oak am I and I court the autumn mother,
her skin tattooed with the patterns of the harvest,
her eyes the dark of the welcoming night;
my boughs weave the promise that she will return.
Oak am I and I walk when the moon walks.
My stride takes me on the back of the west wind
to where the dreams of men mingle in the green world;
my mystery is the riddle from which all riddles spring.
Oak am I and I bid you welcome and well-met.
In the hazards and perils that challenge our lives,
when summer wakes when summer sleeps,
I charge you with the care of these lands and each other.
Charles de Lint,
October 8, 2003
© Charles de Lint
All rights reserved by Charles de Lint. No reproduction in any form whatsoever may be made of this writing in part or in whole.