I’m going to say it straight out. Somebody’s going to die tomorrow.
Actually, I’m sure, lots of somebodies will die, but there’s one in particular
that I’m thinking of tonight.
Nothing lasts forever.
Joy comes, and goes.
Seasons come, and go.
Grief comes and goes, too.
Whole countries, entire species,
blazing stars in the sky—
come and go.
Tomorrow the elm tree outside
my west-facing windows will be taken down.
Chain saws will whir and bite.
It will be fast, the end.
Tonight I’m saying goodbye.
I get it.
It’s become dangerous, the elm.
Too big for its place. It has to go.
It could hurt someone.
(Hurt is part of life)
Joy comes, and goes.
I will miss her outstretched limbs
reflecting in my morning coffee in summer,
I will miss her golden leaves in the fall.
She healed me, that tree.
I spent hours looking up at her.
I owe her a lot, I think.
I wish I could tell her:
She gave me the gift of learning to just be.
To laugh and cry and and let go of what was and be myself alone.
(Though I suppose I wasn’t ever really alone; she was there?)
I’ll carry her gift with me, planted like a seed
rooting in my heart.
I’m getting more comfortable with impermanence.
Better at letting go.
Better at grief.
It’s just a tree, after all,
a little piece of heaven,
patiently teaching me how to breathe in life.
Walking this weekend brought to mind a poem I remembered about Ginkgos. Their “yellow fluttering fans of light” never fail to inspire me. I attempt and fail to capture them in yellow/fossil/sucked-in-breath poems. They are the last of their division of tree (Ginkgophyta), all others being long extinct.
Ginkgo leaves are found in fossils dating back 270 million years, and though they are messy and somewhat smelly trees—they are my favorites at this time of year.I look up and get lost. Or look down and get lost, depending on which day I come upon them.
Here’s a stanza of the poem I had to come home and google around to find. It’s from “The Consent” by Howard Nemerov.
Late in November, on a single night Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees That stand along the walk drop all their leaves In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind But as though to time alone: the golden and green
Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday
Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.
I’ve been drunk-binging on nature lately, pulled from my grind-screen work and what I ‘should’ be doing to spend hours just gazing at the wonders of the fall. I end up working way too late to compensate, but you can only see the foliage in the daylight.
Such transformation is amazing. It gives me hope. As in, “I am living in a miracle world, pure, uncut amazing! Anything might happen!”
Well. It’s not all Indian summer breezes, after all. Nope. It’s a world awash in constant pain. Turn on the news or read the stream or listen to the couple behind you in line for a burrito sniping at each other–pain, pain, pain; see the face of the worn-looking woman waiting for the bus, see how a knotted thread of anxiety is pulling her features toward the center of her face, into a pinch of ache. She’s in pain, emotional, physical, spiritual–it doesn’t matter what kind of pain, does it? She’s a human, and she’s hurting.
This week I read a story in the New York Times about an Italian marathon-runner, and not an experienced or well-trained one, who came to New York to run. He was with a loosely-organized group of Italians. He spoke no English. Somewhere along the route of the marathon, he dropped his small amount of cash, along with his hotel key-card and his subway map.
He went missing for around 48 hours, wandering New York in his running clothes, disheveled, hungry, alone. Unable to communicate. After running a whole marathon, so he must’ve been flat-out depleted. He made his way, somehow, to the airport, knowing his group would be flying out the next day. Security kicked him out, because they thought he was homeless.
A policeman noticed him on the subway the next day, and realized he was the missing foreigner.
According to Office Yam, “He kept turning and looking to the map. He seemed like he was under duress, like he happened to be lost or not knowing where he was going.” Thanks to the officer’s alertness, the hapless marathoner was saved. Happiness! Truly, it was a joyful ending to what must have been a terrifying experience for him.
Still, no mention in the news article of all the actual homeless people who are disheveled, hungry, alone and unable to communicate, who also do not know where they are going, and who are moved along and cursed at and rarely rescued. They have no group to join, it seems. Imagine the marathoner, wandering weak and scared for two whole days. Now imagine wandering—indefinitely. In the cold, in the rain. In the days that come after this golden time ends.
Sometimes I just want to not want to help, to care, to crave, to feel at all. Because I don’t know how to fix it. I can barely manage myself.
But then: the trees.
The trees are divine spirits. They won’t let me fade into numb oblivion. They remind me that no matter what else is going on, no matter what hurts or what is messed up—that beauty is there, not caring if I eat it up or ignore it, but there all the same. Doesn’t that mean something? I take a picture. I feel pleased, and then sort of shallow at the rush of pleasure all this beauty brings. My inner scold chides me. A picture of an amazing blazing autumn afternoon won’t heal the world.
A little voice says it might heal some tiny corner of it.
It might remind someone— someone who gets lost fighting things she cannot change—to remember to appreciate the gift of being in this world, on this day. To breathe this autumn air, and feel gratitude.
And maybe that is a tiny little start?
It’s not nearly enough, but you have to begin where you are, and work up from there.
“Hope without power is no match for fear with power.” –Caroline Myss
Maybe if we empower our hopes, there will be a little less fear in the world?