The hurricane tore down so many ancient trees here, including the seven that formed this shelter. In the death of all these trees there is also beauty. The yellow leaves of a birch have mingled with the strong green of a spruce as they rest together. Once their limbs joined together in a nesh above me, but now they form walls along the ground. Their lives ended, they will influence the landscape for years before returning to the soil and nourishing new life. The cycles of nature always complete.
I’m walking now to the tree most sacred to me. It’s an old, old birch that has stood for uncounted decades, and perhaps centuries. Its branches were as big around as most other trees here, and nearly as long as they were tall. The lowest ran parallel to the ground, and seemed at once fragile, since it could be moved when I reached up to touch it, and impossibly strong. It facinated me during my childhood, its age conjuring up stories that could never materialize. I would walk to it most days when I ventured outside, feeling its pull and exploring around it. It still stands, but its two greatest limbs reach to the ground instead of to the sky.
My foot sinks into the earth, into a hole created by the topppling of a tree beside me. I feel dirt and spruce needles slide down into my boot. I pull out of the hole and rest on the trunk of another green life that has fallen. Another birch, perhaps the daughter of the old tree-mother I worshiped. I take the time to clean my boot out and lace it up snugly before looking up.
I see up past the two cracked limbs and see that the old tree still has life. Her top-most branch is a lively birch in its own right, covered with yellowing green leaves and a close-fitting white robe of bark.This tree will live on despite the hurricane’s fury. Perhaps in another few years it will die, but I have a strong feeling that she has a decade or more left to teach of life.
I feel as though I should somehow be her protector, to preserve this great beauty for the future. I do know, however, that she is strong enough to survive. She has been a healer and a teacher to me for many years, and I will take her message of endurance and life with me on my journey and share it with those I can.
I walk back along an old path remade by new obsticles. The huge trunks make a once straight route turn into a twisting river. A mass of roots torn from the ground draws my attention with the scent of freshly exposed earth. The large rocks beneath them were unsean anywhere in the woods before the uprooting occurred. Life is change,and surely this change will be like others, bringing forth new beauty and growth.
I enter the border-guard between the wild forest and the ordered yard. It’s a small building that I used as a play area as a child. It’s quite sturdy still, and has become a storage place for my parents. In the corner I see a large (1 foot high and 2 feet in diameter) grey nest. It may be a mouse’s nest, a squirrel’s nest or something else, but I feel I should move on.
I’m now walking in the northern part on the property, having left the eastern woods. I’m wandering past the shed, the fire pit, and around sparse trees to the green lawn. The crunch or dry leaves and peeping animals can be heard between the few cars that pass.
This is a place that still feels like home. I feel it more strongly on this hot fall day than I have in many months. Its in the growing life that I find comfort rather than the walls I slept within last night.
I’m now in the basement room where I lived during the summer. It’s cooler down here despite the warm wood texture of the walls, and that contrast is one of the aspects I most like about this room. It enbodies a dynamic I strive for in many areas of my life, the cooling flame.
Tonight my uncle Cyril will be having a bon fire at his home. This event will stand as a positive outcome from the storm. Its destructive force toppled the trees we will use tonight as fuel for a fire around which our family will become closer. We’ll tell stories and sing songs that strengthen our bonds of love and heritage, of history and futures.
Fires have long been centers for my life with my family. My grandmother’s wood stove heated her kitchen, where I spent much of my early days and where I spent many of my early days and where I sat with her during some of her last. Camping each summer always involved camp fires, where we would sing old country songs and hear stories far older than our own memories. During power outages my sister and I would play board games together under the much smaller flame of a candle.
Other than polishing up a resume and spending time with my family during this time at my parents’ home, I also hope to assemble a new photo album system for my website. I now have 0.5 GB of web space, so I am finally able to put together the system I want to archive all those visual pieces of memory that I did not have the space for. I intend this new incarnation to be quite complete, so I’ll be dusting off childhood photos and also some recent ones I haven’t yet shared with everyone.