Life is Tree...in all of it's forms
I know today is "taking care of ourselves"....I wish that we didn't forget so often how important it is to do that. And, what that means is different for everyone...for me, one of the most important ways that I need to do that is to allow myself to stop and take life in....to literally STOP....today, I was driving past the river on the way to work...thinking about how THANKFUL I am right now that life is taking on some normalcy...
....and that I am finally having the desire to return to things that I have had to abandon to take care of things that were emergencies....years of this....of taking care of my husband and my business and my fair share of disasters....and, today, I was the ART MOM.....and I wish I could tell you how normal that made me feel....and how much it did for me....little things, you know?
....and how I pulled my camera out and took some photos of the sheer joy of the normalcy of it all....and how....I stopped on my way to work when I saw the river and the frost sparking on all of the trees growing alongside the river...I pulled over and walked down to the river and snapped photos....it's making my eyes tear up to write this....for me....that was an ultimate way of taking care of myself....of letting myself STOP, even though I 'should' have driven right past and gotten into the office sooner....I let myself pull over and walk through the crispy leaves, and down to the water....and listen to the current and BE. BE ALIVE in this world and take it in....and take some photos JUST FOR ME. It was a very big moment that I am very proud of....that I will be building on from today forward....getting some 'normalcy' back in our life after so many years of so much pain and confusion and survival.....life is meant to be lived with joy...........and it's really in letting yourself do the little things.....and because of some really huge miracles in the last few months that I'm sure I'll tell you about.....we are starting to live a NORMAL life....even a joyful one.....
and.....to do this, it's about surrendering, finding the joy in the smallest things....
.....and, being OK with life's changes.....
which is what today's TREE analogy is about....
Life is a Tree
Life is a Tree…and every tree has a story….this one is long, and really it’s a kind of love story….I promise it will be worth it….
This story has been a hard one to choke out….I haven’t wanted to confront it…but it’s really the reason I started writing about trees a few weeks back. Every time I have sat down to try to write this out, my whole heart begs me to stop….but….here goes….
Out back behind the house in our old red barn, there’s an enormous stack of rough cut walnut boards….they have been sitting in the barn for over 2 years, ‘curing’, waiting to be planed and sanded and built into a dining room table and a drawing desk and a big, thick front door.......
….however, they used to be a tree that is now a very sad stump in our side yard….you can see it when you drive up the lane to our house…and, removing this stump will surely leave an enormous hole that will have to be filled-in (though it’s got to be done one of these days) because this tree was old old old….and tall…..and beautiful…and perfect….it was one of the oldest trees on our 100 Year old farm. We used to pick bushels and bushels of fallen walnuts off of the ground every Fall, my children hated it and loved it…every few days we’d have to park the tractor next to this giant tree and fill the bucket up…it was hours and hours of fun family time in the crisp Fall weather….
You have to understand that I wanted a house with big trees…that was my one big request…because, you just CAN’T buy trees that are 50 and 100 years old…for any amount of money…they have to come with time…they are rare and they are wonderful and I didn’t care where I had to live as long as I got to have big trees….the big trees I wanted just happened to be surrounding a beautiful 100 year old stone house that I was also in love with….all of the things I prayed and wished and hoped for all ended up on this farm……….and in all of my late 20’s wisdom….I was certain that life would always be this perfect…that the trees would continue to tower, that my home would always be filled with perfect memories and that our family would live happily-ever-after….but, really….would that make a very interesting story?
I remember the summer that I noticed that the leaves growing on the very top center branches of the old Walnut tree were starting to wilt. It seemed like there was something happening right in the middle branch….I thought maybe some bugs had gotten to it…then, every week, the circle of wilting leaves spread, outward, from the center….
Then…in the middle of that summer, my husband (who I also prayed and wished and hoped for all of my life….and wanted EVEN MORE than big trees) had a horrible sports accident, resulting in a traumatic brain injury….and our life was immediately turned upside down….
….and as cruel as life can get…my tree was dying, too.
Every day I would drive home and looki at my tree, towering at least twice as high as my house, watching it fade and wilt branch after branch, the sickness spreading a few feet wide…until it was 4 feet wide, then 8 feet wide, then 12 feet wide….all summer, week after week, this poor tree was struggling. and dying from the inside out…I wanted to fix it, I wanted to find the thing that would make it better….i wanted the branches and leaves to stop dying…I made phonecalls and talked to tree doctors and called my mom who has the greenest thumb I’ve ever known of…I researched the problem and then finally called Genevieve….my husband’s great aunt, and the sage old botanical soul who I knew would know the answers…and, would understood my devastation….
She told me there was nothing that I could do because a tree virus (yes, it’s true) was killing all of the walnut trees in town….it came around every 50 years or so…..she’d just lost 3 walnut trees herself….it is just the cycle of life……
I would not call myself a tree-hugger…..but, this tree was just such a close resemblance to everything that was happening with my husband. It was a bitter irony during that time in our life….my husband was really not doing well….would go through all sorts of different phases….and I was a mess…..and I would cry and not be able to pull myself together and friends would ask what was wrong and I would say “my tree is dying….”
I would cry whenever I drove up to the house and looked at it…sometimes I would sob….I would just put my head down on the steering wheel and sob….and then I would go inside, pull myself together before I had to go upstairs and take care of my husband’s shell, lying in bed for almost a year………when he was awake he was dead inside….he was different, I was certain that nothing would ever be the same again…ever. But, is it really ever even possible?
….and I don’t think anyone really understood how difficult it was, or why it was so devastating to me when that tree died….in fact, I don’t know that I understand why I reacted the way that I did….like a real person had died…because really, it was easier to admit that I was losing my tree than that I was losing my husband and the love that I’d prayed for all of my life and enjoyed for 14 years before that #*#&^#% accident took him from me and from us and from the world….took the life I planned for us and thought we would always have….shook things up and made them scary….
Doesn’t it just feel cruel sometimes that you can’t just pick ONE thing to stop in time? That everything has a life cycle….that change must happen….that the world keeps going and going whether we are ready or not? That this walnut tree had dropped hundreds of thousands of walnuts throughout its time and that its seeds were already moving and growing into new trees that would make walnuts of their own…………..
……and that the whole, entire tree was done, after almost a hundred years of shading this place….without a single warning, it didn’t tell us the year before that we better enjoy it while it was still around….…..it just died.
And, the next year, when my husband was out of bed and starting to function again……he called some timber guys, and took out the chainsaw, and they all cut the tree down. It was a foggy, surreal day……..and they all talked about what beautiful, perfect wood it was, how straight and perfect that tree had grown, what beautiful furniture it would make….
I was still raw from a whole year of caring for him….he was just coming alive….so different and healing…..he saw me standing over in the yard, crying….while they all cut down that tree with such a disturbing and insulting lack of emotion…..DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND HOW LONG IT TAKES TO GROW A TREE THAT BIG? DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT IT CAN NEVER BE REPLACED??? DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I LOVE THAT TREE????
…..and my husband came over to try to comfort me…..and he said….’someday I will build you a whole house of furniture with this tree….you’ll be able to enjoy it every day…just in a different way, it’s going to take on a different shape….this tree will live on forever….”
Then some guys came out and cut the big tree into thick, beautiful boards…….and, there’s a zillion of them stacked out in our barn….and someday they will be ready, after their ‘curing’ time.
…..and whether I accept it or not, life will grow up right around that stump in my yard……if we don’t pull it out, it will be overgrown with new life someday….nothing waits….and new walnut trees grow every day, that was not the only one…….and the world enjoys their shade and their fruit and all of the things that will be made from their wood when the time comes…….but not a single tree will be alive in the ground forever.
….through nature, Heaven, God….there’s a plan….for birth and life and time to go….then new growth….nature even cleans out the forest with fires….completely gets rid of ‘dead wood’ and the next Spring, through black and burnt trees, a whole new forest grows….it just does…..it just does. You don’t even have to do anything…it just grows when it’s time….right through the rubble. That’s how a tree’s life is…that’s how OUR life is….
So……the lesson I learned from a dying tree…..from change that I did expect, from change that I did not want to accept….was that my tree will someday be a table for my family to eat and talk and play around………and it could never be a table if it was still a tree….and now it’s time for it to be a table…..
Whatever your fallen tree is…I hope you can see the table that is within it….and look back and remember the shade it once brought, but just to be thankful, not to be sad….there’s a million other places to find shade.
…..I don’t know if what I wanted to say, what I meant, really came across….this is still a hard one for me…the stump is still in my yard…..and the wood is still curing….and my tree is gone………..I am gonna start looking forward to that table and all of the life that we’ll be living around it…..
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, that you're making big plans for the rest of the holidays... and that you really took the chance to dig deep and found the millions of big and little things to be thankful for.
Lots of Love