Is Change a 4-Letter Word?

I’m sitting at the new desk my son and I made over the weekend (“Mom, you need a desk. You can’t keep working in the kitchen.”), which means that instead of watching the Southern light stream in just above the row of Italian cypress that Sweetest and I are patiently watching inch up toward the sky, I’m gazing over the Northern vista toward the English garden he designed and planted surrounding a stately and spreading elm.

Tree HaulOr, more precisely, I’m watching a trampling of the English garden as five neon-yellow-chested workers carry the centerpiece off in huge slices hoisted on their shoulders.

We knew she was on her last leg when we moved here, but despite the hollow cubbies here and there and the massive cable linking her three largest branches, still she stood, day after day, happy to hold a swing and a bee skep, willing to shade the hostas and hydrangeas that wouldn’t survive without her leafy sun-shield. Our Tree Guy said, “She’s gonna hit the ground one day, but she won’t come near the house, so I’d leave her up as long as she wants to stay.” And so we did, hoping that would be Forever.

TreefallForever came this weekend. Vernon heard the crack as one of the cables snapped and a third of the trunk broke away, filling the yard with branches fifteen feet above the ground. When Jason and I returned from Desk Materials Central, aka IKEA, we drove right into that dead-tree-jungle of twigs, branches, leaves, and barkness everywhere. Oh. Welcome Home, Change.

Tree Garden 2012And so my new work vista that would have looked like this:

Tree Garden 2012 After

now looks like this:

There are worse places to be, of course.

When I get pissy about this or that, I try to fall back on the mantra: Embrace Change, Embrace Change. And still I wonder, my mental rambling accompanied by the harbinger chant of a chainsaw, where’s the upside here? Change, I’m not a total hardass. Show me the upside and I will meet you halfway. Maybe a nod today; maybe a handshake in a couple of weeks.

So far, no response, just a peculiar morning watching the yellow guys pulling elm branches out of the fifty-foot redwoods, and it’s all very Magritte. I need tea.

Magritte, Carte Blanche

Looking at Trees

Costa Rica Tree, by Pamela Goode

When the kids were young and we lived in a small town in South Carolina, I was briefly a biker. I’d hop on my Wal-Mart Special every afternoon, plug in Jason’s walkman and pedal as hard as I could, asking questions and listening for answers in the music. After the requisite number of laps around the park by the bay, I’d coast into the historic district and walk my bike into the cemetery at Prince George, laying my body flat on the weathered stone that covered one of the raised tombs beneath the dogwoods. Music off now, I’d stare through the leaves, lime or forest or claret as the seasons changed, peering beyond them to watch dark birds so far beyond my eyes etching circles into the blue. I didn’t think, and I didn’t need to think — the watching filled my heart and soul and soothed my limbs and made the way seem easy. Sometimes I’d let a question lie beside me on the stone in quiet co-existence. More often than not, I walked back to my bike and headed for home with a fresh view. I made friends with the issues, and the issues were usually content to fall away.

Some days I need more trees. I need to be able to stand on the sand near the bay, or sit on the gritty picnic table in salty jeans with my face upturned and listen to the trees talking each to each, the wind singing by on tiptoe or deep-throated, grabbing me by the ears and rouging my cheeks and urging me to join the dance, to hear, to grasp, to run, to yelp with joy or sorrow or passion or fear or laughter but to pull out of myself and join in the sound of the pines and the sky and the circling birds. I haven’t been there in a while.

I once wondered if I listened hard enough, or well enough, or often enough, if I could learn the words or the tune or the meaning of treesong. Outside of Harry Potter and, was it Babes in Toyland? — I’ve never seen an evil tree. Trees are universally comforting. They shelter, cradle, feed, and dance and soothe us with a sense of permanence and balletic invincibility. I need to take myself back there.

Some days the best thing that happens is the kindness of a stranger with grandma hair and warm hands, making sure she looks you in the eye when she speaks so you can feel her words even if you can’t hear them. Some days it hurts to reach because you have a hole in your flesh big enough to pass a pair of tweezers through. Some days those you adore want to be with you every minute, because they need to hold on to the love and make it real enough to stand as a fortress. Some days are made of nothing but hours and the ticking of second hands, because nothing exists between the tweezers and the call. Some days there is nothing better than holding hands, and nothing that heals as much as looking at trees.

Fall Color Wheels

I’ve just returned from a visit with my sister in Virginia, and the October slant of the sun is currently pickling even the lowliest subject matter into a sparkling celebrity in Fall’s Five Minutes of Fame. I’m a snap and run kinda girl, not by nature but by practice, stealing as many shots as I can while companions wait with varying degrees of patience ten paces ahead.

Not every face is lovely, but this one is Beyond Beautiful. Ancient Indian elephant, Wise Woman, patterns of dew-starved earth? Fall colors steal the show, but I’ve always been a sucker for the overlooked.