Inspired by this excerpt from “Exercises on Themes From Life,” by Alice Walker, read at the beginning of the our time together today:
To keep up a
with a tree
one must be
In the forest
in the dark one night
I lost my way.
Part One: My Love is a Tree
In passionate courtships with trees, I find myself more alive, more alone, but also more connected to all life, something true to children and therefore more true than the concrete driveway upon which I stand in my moments of courtship these days.
My feet, upon the concrete, recount to me the weirdness of my courtship with the bigger of two trees in our front suburban yard. That the tree was planted by neighborhood planters almost matters not (but it matters a little in my awareness of my courtship as I know it matters to her). It is all weird, but the courtship itself seems to be the only right thing in those moments. She is beautiful, alive, thriving (thanks, in part, to Jack’s courtship of me, which takes the form of him passionately fertilizing the tree he knows I love so much). And she dares to reach out over the persnickety neighbors’ yard, making Jack nervous with her audacity. I, however, not-so-secretly cheer her on and smile at her need for balance and her willingness to acquire it in the suburban sun.
She is quiet most days. She has roots that suffer through layers of chemicals left behind by the airfield that used to cover this land before the neighborhood planters planted. But, clearly, her roots reach down even further, beyond those layers of human innovation, below our desires for new and novel and aeronautics. She reaches down to something pure and rich so that she can reach high and wave her magic arms at the sun who has turned her soil for millennia. She knows the rhythms that pound out existence like an eternal metronome. I almost envy her. But I can feel her chiding me before I allow the envy to take root in me. Her green fingertips and soft brown bark softly sing of place, of rightness of wherever we are planted, even in suburbia, even on top of a no-longer living airfield of human innovation and folly.
This morning, I wondered in my heart if I could have survived Houston, Texas without faith, without a deeper knowing of the God who has no one place upon which to rest his weary head. I know that there is no way on God’s green earth that I could have without knowing the God of this green—and blue and grey and rusty and neon yellow—earth. I know I have a place here for as long as I have roots of faith, and my tree, with whom I have a passionate courtship, knows this for herself, too.
We get each other. And it is not weird.
Part Two: Continuous Courtship is Rightly Difficult
Sometimes, though, seeing her makes me want to cry. I wish we had met in a forest. I wish we had met when I was lost and could have sat against her and absorbed her warmth without the tick-tock of the Western-world’s preferred beat. I writhe a bit inside as I feel the toxic sludge she pushes through to get to the good stuff below my view. But her reminder of how we survive best by pushing against the walls of the cocoon, the concrete, to know better our strength and our passions, is as constant as her strong trunk, home to lichen and worm, lizard and moth.
Sometimes I ask her where we go from here. A poorly worded question, as what I really mean is what do we do with here? Should my branches be waving more vivaciously in the wind? Should I be sprouting more leaves, hosting more symbiotic relationships? But I see she does all this while standing in one place. Such stillness, she breaths, is never still.
When I step away from her—and how I know she is a her is a confounding question for me—I resent the concrete for a moment, the suburban front door, the cookie-cutter interior, but then again, not as much. When I close the door to her life outside, in the sun and hurricane, I am welcomed by four-legged life and two-legged, two-armed, two-lipped love and dinner. I forget her immediately, and she never seems to mind. She knows I see her through the front windows from my perch on the blue-grey couch. She does her job and accepts my gratitude and its on-again/off-again rhythm, knowing I will feel the beat in my bones one day. She is wisdom.