Home in Illinois, Lincoln liked to read under a beech. Lincoln liked to read period. For all we know he may have liked to look at dirty flip books under the ample canopy of a solitary beech.
Though Lincoln was known to have enjoyed reading under a beech, it is apparently not true that he and his son Tad played and read under a copper beech at the cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home. This is where Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, and the kids could play mumble-the-whatever-the-hell-it-is-peg. This is where he rode Old Bob, grey shawl over his own grey shoulders, and though usually accompanied by a cavalry detail, did once have his high hat shot through. The tree, real enough, was probably not big enough at the time to provide shade for the idle, bookish type.
A copper beech is planted in front of his seated statue in Louisville, where with bronze book balanced on his knee, pried open by a bronze finger, he watches the Ohio roll on, where he first saw slaves unloaded, and was put wise to his revulsion toward the peculiar institution.
They are very beautiful, firm, and perfect leaves, unspotted and not eaten by insects, of a handsome, clear leather-color, like a book bound in calf. Crisp and elastic. Thoreau
There is a Corot of a woman lying down reading in a beech grove. Really the painting is of the trees. She just happens to be in the lower-left corner, barefoot, loose-tressed, corseted. From here, the pages that absorb the woman are just gobbledygook.
Greek proverb: A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit—there may be more than one possible translation of that one.
African proverb: Roots do not know what a leaf has in mind.
Everytime the tree works the leaves dream. Frank Stanford
That mono-focal experience of the bok is the heart and soul of what it means to read.
FYI: Fagus sylvatica is the most mentioned tree in Danish poetry.
FYI: The 16th president was shot in his fine Brooks Brothers suit.
From Casting Deep Shade. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2019 by C.D. Wright.