I have known this was coming, and still it seems sudden. We received the call today that the tree service is ready to come take down the Uncle Poplar who stands above us, cools us in the summer, draws my magnificent oriole friends to us in the spring, and holds part of the heart of our farm. He was here long before we came, watching the tender grandmother who lived here. He held the hammock where I lay in the days of grief recovering from my first miscarriage, and where I lay with new babies to nurse in cool spring breezes. He has watched over our children and the families of countless customers.
He has been a city, a veritable nation of birds and insects and bats and faerie folk. Friends have climbed into his branches. We’ve reached out and touched his hanging branches with our toes from the swings, and one tome he held one of our big bouncy balls for months before someone tossed another ball high enough to get him to relinquish his grasp. We’ve sneezed every spring in the drenching pollen from his glorious blossoms. Along with our Auntie Sycamore, he has been half of the gate that guards the entrance to our home.
His roots have been rising. Each year, the driveway is lifted a little further, cracking near the garage where his mighty roots are shifting upward. He endangers the foundations of the house he has protected. And he is tired. In every storm, he drops massive limbs, though none have damaged more than rain gutters on the house. But it’s time.
I sang him a song and burned some incense around his trunk this afternoon. Tomorrow will be a sad day, but it will be exciting as well. We have never seen a tree brought down. I will gather small branches for wands and runes. Perhaps we’ll carve some spoons and bowls. The tree folks will take away most of his wood.
I am finding the simple three-circuit labyrinth to be really satisfying. Like a spiral, each circuit brings you one step closer toward the center, yet there’s that unsettling turning at the end of the circuit. Wait a minute! I’m now going the other way! Still, despite the change in direction, I continue to move ever closer to the center. This hit me yesterday. Life has sent me reversals. I have had moments when I have suddenly changed directions. The whiplash can feel overwhelming, the sense of lost time or futility in what came before–but the turnings also bring me closer to the center. The apparent about-faces and the changes of plan do not mean that I am going backwards, undoing the past. I am still moving closer to the center. It all leads toward the center.
1. (What feeds you?) The red of the poppies. I think I could probably live on the food of that red. Such an impossible color. That and the orange of Oriole. And the thousands greens of the last week of May.
2. (What finds resolution?) I now have fewer balls to juggle, fewer plates to keep spinning in the air. I can look to caring for my children more intentionally, to tidying and cleaning and systematizing.
3. (What images draw you?) The labyrinth. We used the labyrinth as the structure for the service in church yesterday, and this Wednesday, I will be focusing on the labyrinth for my mini-course with my students.
4. (Who has been helpful?) Walt Whitman, Rachel Carson, Sojourner Truth–I will meditate on the words and lives of these wise ones this week.
5. (What helps you cope?) This little air conditioner. If I choose to live beneath the branches of a grand tulip poplar, I must have respite during its blooming season. This magnificent tree draws our orioles to us. Its leafy embrace cools us here in the hollow during hot summer days. It stands across from the sycamore like a sentinel. It is a city teeming with life, vibrant with the flashing colors, the buzzing and twittering conversations, the busy living of its residents. Its buttery blooms are elegant. . .and toxic to me. We make allowances. We adjust ourselves sometimes to live with those we love. For the week or two that it sends pollen to bless the world around, I spend my time at home in these rooms with the air conditioner on, venturing out for short periods to listen to birdsong, to watch the sun shift across the sky.
May we walk in Beauty!