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Posts Tagged ‘blue spruce tree’

The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. (Carlos Santana, musician)

Occasionally as I swivel in my desk chair away from the computer, I see an unframed black-and-white photo of me taken when I was in perhaps seventh grade. The private school uniform is a huge clue. The hair-style is late nineteen-fifties curlers. And I can be certain that the artificial rolls collapsed by noon, if not sooner.

Most of my memories from those days have disappeared as well.

The girl in the picture is a shy, unsophisticated girl, favorite place to go, the library. She is insecure in groups. Yet capable. At least in my head, I tell her my stories as I write them—as if she didn’t already exist somewhere inside this much older body. I wonder if she hears me.

me St. Dominic school

For a writer the internal and the external world need to meet. Perhaps these forces will never understand one another completely. For me, if open hearts and peace appear along the way, I have touched my purpose. At least for the duration of a page.

When my older son was a toddler my husband and I planted a blue spruce tree in our front yard. The tree was a gift from my son’s great uncle. It was my son’s tree. Years later the tree became the front yard and housed birds of all colors and varieties.

Then disease, fungi, spider mites attacked the tree. With the help of a huge cash loss, the spruce survived. Not all of its branches made it. For the bird residents the effect became more patio than closed door. No safe place away from predators.

But, the tree never has held a promise of safety. We have always seen feathers and dead birds in the yard. Cooper hawks. Preying cats, waiting.

I pause and look again at the long-ago picture of twelve-year-old me. Knowing the young girl doesn’t see the present. I remember how she walked home from school alone after a difficult day of taunting. How she prayed and wondered how the saints managed. Those characters had been presented as emotionless beings. The martyr, St. Lawrence, said as he was being burned to death: “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” Is that true? Really? Then came saints who levitated and spoke to larger-than-life beings beyond the grave.

I tell her about the very ordinary tree and tell her to stay inside the very ordinary day. The beauty is all around her. In some ways I want to spare her more serious attacks to come, the pain, the pruning that will inevitably follow. I cannot. Any more than I can bring back birds killed by the Cooper Hawk.

“Paths through branches are now open. Free. You may not have wings. But you can still fly.” I’m surprised. I have spoken out loud. And I pray that my words carry peace.

blue spruce before and after

blue spruce before and after

 

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The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

We planted our blue spruce tree forty years ago. It was a gift from my husband’s uncle who owned a nursery. Some of the tree’s branches no longer thrive. However, I only recently learned that no blue spruce trees have survived in a neighborhood less than a thirty-minute drive east of ours. I had no idea how lucky our front yard has been. Of course, the spruce’s care has cost a small fortune. But human life isn’t always easy either. Life was never promised to be an effortless road.

Dakota gathers cones scattered on the ground and gives them a ride in his toy yellow dump truck.

“Can I take these home?” he asks.

“Sure. As long as your mom says it is okay.”

I have probably stepped on or over the huge seeds and never noticed them. Dakota studies the shape and size of each cone. He lets the super-wet ones dry in the sun. Dark and semi-disintegrated cones remain with the lighter, more attractive ones. I don’t ask our almost-five-year-old why he is so enamored by spruce cones. It doesn’t matter. He has discovered something of wonder, and has given me the opportunity to observe nature—and a beauty that has been waiting for me to notice it.

The top of the spruce holds more cones not yet dropped. I think about how many seeds there are and yet how few produce trees. How often do I expect every kind act to yield results—or at least a nod of recognition? I ask the question, but don’t expect an answer. I need an awareness, not a count.

Gratitude comes in layers, over time. I got a call last night, about a gift a very special person wants to give me. He was shopping with his sister. They were having difficulty making a decision. At the time I’d been tired, lost in my own fatigue—and I almost missed the moment to know how important this call was, a far larger gift than any wrapped present. The what of the purchase wasn’t important. To me. But it was to him. And that is where my awareness took hold. I don’t remember whether or not I said thank you. But I do recall ending the conversation with, “And I love you, too.”

Now, Dakota’s cones go for fast rides up and down the lawn. And I wonder what a four-year-old boy envisions as he leads the truck through imaginary adventures. The dandelions, tucked in his pocket, fall out. He calls them pretty weeds. I call them gifts for the bees.

“Play with me,” he says. I Do. However, I always remain on the edge of his world. And catch occasional glimpses of the newness he sees. With the kind of appreciation that lets growth begin. For both of us.

cones

 

 

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What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. (Chief Crowfoot, Native American warrior and orator, 1821-1890)

The rumble of drills, hammers, and machinery runs from the curb to our basement. We are getting new gas lines this morning. The connection must be occurring right now; I smell it. The energy of the work extends from the basement to the living room floor. Nevertheless, reaching for the ceiling while using my core muscles, I finish one back exercise and begin the next. Let the work on the street and in my basement continue. Let me trust that it will be completed well, that all will be well—whether it appears to be or not.

At least my husband and I know our blue spruce will be spared. When we saw the painted yellow planning line on the grass next to it we feared that our friend of at least thirty-seven years would be lost.

When our evergreen was planted as a sapling our older son, Gregory, was a toddler. It was planted for him. We have pictures somewhere of him watering it, in the days when he could touch the ground with his head without bending his knees. Our son is now a father of two girls and the author of two books. “Open Mike” came out recently. The tree is the front yard. It’s a bed and breakfast for birds in any season. At one time my husband and I considered moving. Our son’s first thought was about the loss of the tree. It arrived as a gift from my husband’s uncle who owned a nursery at the time. That gift has cost us a fortune in maintenance. The tree contracted a fungal disease and blue spruce isn’t covered by any health insurance policy. Fortunately, treatment has brought color back into our spruce’s limbs.

The tree represents life. Birds thrive in our evergreen’s branches despite snow, wind, or rain. Yet, they remain prey for hawks and other predators. We have seen scattered feathers and dead sparrows, an occasional Cooper’s Hawk, a squirrel feasting on the birds’ seed.

If our spruce had been lost, it nevertheless would have been a symbol of life. And we would have mourned it. But it carries on and reaches for the sky, as I do with the final exercise count as I strengthen my core muscles and feel the smallest twinge of pain in the small of my back. It’s okay. Anything worthwhile has its cost. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty…finished for now.

blue spruce

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