Deep contemplation is always what’s in short order these days. In these days, of seeming world collapse – social, political, environmental – and social media pinpricks that don’t give you time to recover from another catastrophe.
Deep contemplation, soothing brain waves that heal from the constant affront. It’s not in evidence in my world, I have to grab in, greedily, like a carnivore with fresh meat. It is Life.
Across the street Mama Oak has lost a limb. Gently she lays down a graceful arm, sheared off the trunk, jagged shards. It is horrifying, and beautiful. An amputee who lost something not through trauma but through steady time. My neighbor is afraid she has to come down. I have great faith she won’t. She won’t have that limb, which we’ll grieve. It sheltered us – not only her family in their yard, but those of us who live nearby and even unconscious speeders who use our street as a commuting thoroughfare. Some part of their frazzled brain, some part they may not even be fully aware of, has had the thought: I like this street; it’s shaded and cool.
That’s mama oak’s arm, gently shielding her children from the blazing sun.
We are in a drought here in California. Time will tell what El Nino actually brought us. The Sierras are in good shape, and because we are all connected, we are better off than we were a year ago. But we here in the valley floor still thirst for water, and nothing impresses me more than these mature trees – my cedar reaching up hundreds of feet, or the oaks who spread their limbs wide and true – imagining how deep their roots must have to go to sustain that kind of growth.
I lost a cedar last fall, from a “drought-related” critter. So yeah, the drought cost me a tree, who along with mama oak, spread coniferous arms across the street, clasping hands with her over the third speed bump. . Her evergreen turned russet, which isn’t good, and the arborist told me that she was in a state of decay. Even her russet branches graced us, so I was tempted to keep her in hospice, love her til she lay down on her own accord,, but there were power lines nearby and I couldn’t endanger those.
We took her down. Her enormous trunk is part of my fence, so that will be with us, built into our house, forever. I have a new neighbor building a typically ginormous early 21st century house (what’s with the square footage, people? Don’t you want a yard???). We share a flag lot road, and in anticipation of huge trucks, I came out one morning last fall to see an innocent worker hacking the shit out of my cedar’s trunk. A bit of it edged into the road, I guess. I begged for him to stop, called my (still absent) new neighbor who also called the guy off. But now my cedar trunk remains with jagged, unconscious cuts. The unconscious worker a grave robber who ravaged my cedar’s final resting place.
Clearly, I was a tree in a former life. Many folks are karmically connected to animals, and though I am too, I am deeply, forever-ly, passionately connected to trees. I am happy when I am around them, a lost animal when I am not. For all the obvious reasons that people love trees, I love them too. But these days, with the pace of reactions and cognition speeding up, I long for the slow contemplation of my arborous forebears. They were here before me. They will outlive me. Their slow tree-thoughts are deeper than my own, their sense of time a balm to my soul. They observe us humans’ tantrumming, loving, worrying, celebrating, grieving and dancing; I like to think they do all those things too, but in ancient treetime.
I will help my neighbor and her mama oak today. I’ll let you know what happens. Til then, maybe unplug from Mr. Trump and his hate mongering and hang out with some trees. I know I will.