- Victoria H
Updated: Apr 3, 2021
March 14th, 2020
How did I miss my connection to trees all this time? Seventy-one years on this tree- laden planet, and I am, just now, realizing their importance in my life. They have, and still do, bring me joy, support, healing, laughter, and inspiration.
If you are willing to pause for a few moments…I know you are busy…I will introduce you to some of my favorites.
Chestnuts Chapter 1
Six years old when I first walked beneath them, gazing up, head tilted waaay back. They lined both sides of the narrow sidewalk; tops touching, far away, scraping clouds. I loved looking up at them. They took me away…made me feel dreamy. I lingered there. Safe.
I dreaded home, where mother waited, angry and frightening. So, I stalled. Sitting under chestnut canopy…writing odes to them…sometimes long stories about their feelings and mine.
I tasted colors painted in each season…seemingly just for me…brown nuts, inside green cloaks, inspired my imaginings. Orange and yellow carpets crackled when I kicked them into chill air in Autumn. Delicate yellow-green, mouth-watering shades in Spring. On hot days, I sheltered, under deep green, looking at sky through a changing, living ceiling. They calmed me. They let me breathe. Yes. Here, for a time, I could breathe.
Weeping Willow Chapter 2
Best friend in my own back yard, where I climbed to read and sometimes to weep. Her branches were perfectly spaced for climbing. Here in high places, hidden from mother, I read precious books as she screamed for me, looking everywhere to assign another task…never looking up. Later, before she came by again, I would climb down quickly, dash to my room, before she could guess where I’d been.
On grass below, Willow provided a quiet place for me to meet with my invisible friends, behind a thick, sweeping curtain of emerald that puddled onto ground.
When my secret was discovered, my “friend” got a haircut. A raggedy bob. Angry mother cut graceful tendrils four feet up. The only hiding place after that was high and higher, in the tallest limbs, closer to clouds. Mother never looked up.
Tulip Tree Chapter 3
Another magnificent tree. This one planted by my mother.
It was stately, elegant and bloomed in summer. Showing off in the front yard, it drew tons of attention. Mother loved it. Her yard and garden stopped cars. People gawked and raved. She preened.
Interesting, looking back with adult eyes, how many trees, plants and flowers my mother nurtured, while she couldn’t seem to care for her child. The flora flourished at our house. I did not.
She didn’t look up into the willow. But one day she climbed up…very near to the top of our tall, tall tulip…to scare neighborhood children. The day before, as they passed, one of them broke off a tiny branch. Furious, in full warrior mode, she girded herself for battle and climbed high to protect her beloved tree.
Arriving home from school that day, I heard her first, then spotted her, up very high, partially hidden in leaves. Yep, there she was…jet black hair, jet black clothes, terrifying green, wolf-eyes…cawing and screeching like a demented raven. Loud. She was loud. The traumatized children ran crying and shrieking, and never came back. After that they walked blocks out of their way home each day to avoid our street and my mother.
She protected her tree. Her beloved tree. She was interesting, my mother. Fierce. She won all the battles she entered. At least the ones with children.
Cedars and… Chapter 4
As a young woman I lived in a tent.
My husband and I built our home together. Just the two of us. It took 3 years. We built by hand, no power tools for the first two years of construction.
Our tent was deep in the forest. We had an outhouse. When we needed water, we filled gallon jugs at the nearest gas station. We had two Coleman lanterns for light. I had two babies while living in the tent. Sons. Sons who still hold a deep, deep connection and serious appreciation for Nature.
Friends worried about us. Living in the Northwest through winters in a tent? What? Are you nuts? But it was a fine tent…white canvas, wood stove, brass bed, oriental rug, front and back porches, a little shelf for dishes, a place beneath for storing our consistently moldy shoes, a crib, and a paradoxically luxurious, sleek black perambulator, a friend brought from England.
We were set…full of dreams and plans and hope.
So many trees forest around us and over us. So much life. Trembling shadows of leaves, on our white, canvas ceiling. How they moved and made our roof a living thing! Big leaf maple branches, becoming spidery, black finger shadows in winter light; later showing tiny blips of buds in Spring. Then summer, when they entertained us with sun backed, broad leafy dances across the top and sides of our home. They were our friends, these trees, and our weather reporters. We were held in the womb of a deep green, sheltering bowl.
The old alder that fell on our tent and broke all my dishes was forgiven. This was life lived in a vibrant, ever-changing, alive forest, after all. We were visitors. Guests on the land.
Trees with so many personalities, shades of green, smells and textures. But the best…the thing that made us choose this site…were three giant cedars, standing together. Guardians of our property and us. They were the first things we saw as we entered that part of the woods. They were taller, older, grander than anything else we could see in the forest.
We fell in love with that place. Right there. Right then. We sat beneath them, full of wonder and gratitude, with dreams of the pole house we would build there, next to them. We fantasized about our children growing up with them and running through and around them.
We laid down together under them and could not see the sky through their branches. We held each other and dreamed of our future together under three cedars. My husband, Chad said: “Victoria, see? This is why Indians made canoes from them, and baskets and why there is always dry firewood under them, even after a rainstorm. They are givers. They are powerful. The take care in so many ways. They are magic.”
He promised me a tree house, after our house was complete. He told me it would be the safest and best place to be in an earthquake. “These guys will sway and move a bit, like breathing. But they will not fall over or let us down”.
The treehouse did not get built. Our house was never completely completed. Dreams were lost in the business of surviving.
Today, after decades and with bittersweet human memories…I visit them from time to time. They still stand, as they were then…together, noble and… untouched.
A tender reminder to me…that I’m still standing too. And...that it’s good to remember old dreams with tenderness and…important to dream new ones.
Plane Tree Chapter 5
High in the mountains of northern Crete, I met a plane tree.
The village of Argyroupolis, (or Lappa), sits atop a mountain saddle, looking down steep gorges to west and east. To the south, stone mountains climb higher. To the north, the land drops for miles, down and down, to sea.
The upper village sits high, with stunning views of gorge and sea. To the west, a steep, stone path winds down to the lower village and grotto, green with lush foliage and cooled by waterfalls. Cool even in the hottest August. So much about this rugged, ancient place is compelling. Including the legend that it was created by Agamemnon, of Trojan war fame. The area is rich with story and history. But…this is a story about a tree.
Stelios vehemently “instructed” me to visit the tree. Mayor of the village, he also owns lemon and avocado groves that descend the gorges and climb the hills. This is his village. He and his wife, Johanne, are two of my most beloved friends. I listened to their advice. It was a smart thing to do.
This ancient plane tree, over 2,000 years old and mentioned in the bible, lives at the bottom of another steep, cobbled path to the east. I knew the path was steep. I knew it was hot. So, water bottle in hand, I headed down the path from the village…flies and bees buzzing around my head, stunning land in front and around me and the smell of fresh, dry air in my nose.
Not knowing what to expect was fun. How far was it? What would I encounter? Mystery made the walk an adventure. Down the bumpy cobblestones I went, head down, watching where to place my feet. Small sturdy wildflowers grew between stones. I stopped over and over to look around me.
I paused at the Minoan catacombs…a bit eerie, even in bright sunshine. Carved into a chalky white hill, mysterious and a bit sad. I was alone. I looked over my shoulder a time or two. It was hot. Heat reflecting off rough stones. I rethought my decision to make this hike. Ravens cawed at me. I was sweating.
I passed by the half cave-half chapel of the 5 virgins, named for 5 young women who were slaughtered here by the Turks, because they were Christian. Another place that felt sacred and sad.
The path became dirt. I began to hear water. It got cooler. I could smell fresh air rolling off a little river under a giantess. The tree. I stopped. Mouth open, jaw slack, I looked up and up and up so much, so high, I had to sit down.
It felt, welcoming, powerful and safe here. The tree was in two parts. Each connected under the earth but with separate personalities above. I sat for a while, climbed up, sat on a branch and leaned back against vast trunks, one at a time. I connected with that tree every way I could think of. Near it I felt small and insignificant.
I stayed a long, very long time. Leaving was difficult. I promised myself and the tree that I would be back.
Living over 2,000 years, this ancient tree has served, grown, survived, protected. Witnessing bloodshed and prayer, rituals and ceremonies…the loving and hating of humans.
This tree created a sacred space. Those of us blessed enough to experience this count ourselves lucky indeed. Rituals of all kinds are held here. Even now, each Spring, beneath her wide-spread limbs shepherds, from all over the mountains, bring their sheep to be blessed by the local priest.
Years later, I brought groups with me to see “real” Crete. One group of women came for a goddess journey. We did ceremony together under the tree…with milk and honey, respectfully…the ancient way. Each woman had her own reason for coming, her own need, her own path and prayer.
After a ceremony of gratitude and request for permission to sit on the land and on the tree, women went silently to where they were drawn, for a time of silent meditation and prayer.
It was then that I heard a loud group of tourists coming down the hill. They were laughing and yelling at each other playfully in German, as they closed in on us. I said a little prayer.
As they got close enough to see the tree…and women silent in branches, lying under, leaning against the tree, some in tears…they immediately stopped talking. They walked silently past me, some with a nod or smile, some with heads down, some looking, curious, but all silent. They came back a few minutes later and continued uphill silently, respectfully.
One man stopped, looked at me, the women, the tree…walked to the tree, put both hands on the trunk, leaned forward, resting his head against the bark. He stood for a while, then straightened, nodded at me and walked off to join his friends. Beautiful. A beautiful moment. I don’t know what caused this group’s response. Perhaps it was the tree. The power and energy of this magnificent being.
Too many times to count I have spent time here sitting on a burl or leaning against the slanted trunk or lying on dirt looking up at limbs so high and far away they seem to belong to sky, not tree.
I’m grateful for this place and this ancient being. I am grateful for the solitude I usually find here, which heals me deeply. Heals me in every realm possible. When I get homesick, I put myself there, no matter where my physical body happens to be. I take myself there to feel the sweetness of place and the beauty of this abiding, sustaining, living spirit.
Thank you, Stelios, for your “suggestion”. Thank you Spirit, for your creation.
Myrtle Tree Chapter 6
The sacred myrtle of Moni Palianis…
My first visit to this tree was an “accident”. Here’s the story.
I love driving. It calms me like a moving meditation. I feel joyful and adventurous roaming around without direction or purpose. The best part is having no attachment to where I end up. It leads to adventures, of which I’ve had many, and a soul deep feeling of freedom. So, on a hot day in the late 1980’s, roaming around my beloved Crete…I got lost. I simply made the decision not to care where I ended up. It’s an island after all. I wouldn’t stay lost forever.
I was driving through a tiny, ancient village when I noticed a hand lettered sign tacked on a pole. Shaped like an arrow about 8 inches long, pointing east, it said: “Moni Palianis” on battered cardboard, written with smeared black felt pen.
I didn’t speak any Greek then, but I knew that “Moni” meant holy or sacred…something like that…so I turned. It seemed as if I was entering the back door of the village… an intruder. Battered old houses opened right onto the road. Open doors revealed tables set for lunch, children playing on floors…private stuff. Dust spiraled and cats scattered as I passed slowly by.
Then an abrupt right turn. Just like that I was descending a winding dirt road toward what looked like a dead end. The road dipped down sharply and took a sharp curve around a tall pile of smoking garbage. The air reeked. I was certain by then I had made a mistake. But the voice of adventure, that lives in my head, plus the reality of a road too narrow for turning, kept me going. The lane twisted almost back on itself and I began to climb past amazing views of a deep valley below to my left, that was filled with tall stone spires, one with a tiny white chapel perched on top.
My progress ended abruptly at a stone wall with a closed wooden gate. Old shabby and compelling. Multiple crosses and icons told me it was, indeed, a chapel of some sort. I backed up a bit, pulled into weeds as far off the narrow track as I could, stepped out into intense heat and rummaged around in the back of my tiny car for my “monastery wear”.
Women may not enter a monastery or convent with exposed legs, arms or chest. Bare toes are frowned upon too, so sandals aren’t appreciated. I carry a long, knit skirt to pull over my shorts, light linen jacket to cover my sinner arms and a pair of canvas loafers. After tugging this extra layer over shorts and tank top, I headed up to see what I would find.
Gingerly I pushed at the gates which opened with a deep, satisfying creak. I peeked in, unsure if I should even be here. If it was a monastery filled with men, my entrance might not be welcomed. Once I poked my head inside, however, there was no going back. Powerful sweet, welcoming energy pulled me in. I am not making this up. It was the most inviting energy, with no humans in sight, I had ever felt. I could almost taste it.
A charming old chapel squatted in a cobbled courtyard. Dead palm fronds, leftovers from Easter, hung dry and brown, from the roof and around the door. It was a convent and a poor one. Three tiny old nuns appeared, glanced at me and disappeared into cells made of stones. Nuns I saw that day all looked over 80 years old and under 5’1’ tall. No one spoke English.
Walking into the courtyard where lemon trees bloomed, I could see a tree peaking over the chapel roof. It beckoned. Curious, I had no idea what I was about to encounter or the long-term relationship between me and tree that would begin this day.
Dangling from every available limb and twig of the sprawling tree was a multilayered wall of gold and silver jewelry. Watches, rings, necklaces, brooches and bracelets sparkled in filtered sun. Some looked ancient and priceless. Family heirlooms. Under the tree, in the dirt, were crutches, canes, prosthetics and even a bejeweled admiral’s sword and scabbard.
I learned later that people traveled from nearby villages, as well as some from great distances, to pray for miracles. If their prayer was answered, and it seemed most were, they returned to offer a gift of gratitude to the tree…and of course, to Creator.
It was stunning. I had never seen anything like this. Without thinking I dropped to the ground to sit in the shadow of greatness. The power was clear. For the first time in decades, I prayed…under that tree…and felt deeply moved, knowing it was right action without knowing why.
When I returned to my home base that night, I was eager to talk with Greek friends about this and to hear the history. No one knew what I was talking about. For years, each time I returned to Crete, I tried to find someone who could tell me more. It took me learning a bit of Greek and meeting an elder to finally learn the legend.
Here is the story I was told.
One night, a very long time ago, perhaps 1,600 years, there was a terrible fire in the area. Villagers ran with buckets and large, heavy blankets and rugs to stop the destruction. Thick black smoke made night even darker. In the midst of chaos, a group of boys heard a woman calling for help. They followed the sound of her cries until they found an icon of Mother Mary nestled in a myrtle tree. Calling for help, they moved quickly to save tree and icon.
Certain they had experienced a miracle and that this was a holy place, the villagers built a chapel next to the tree and placed the icon inside. They probably had a ceremony and went to their beds feeling satisfied that Mary was where she deserved to be…in a chapel built by loving hands.
Next morning, however, the icon was back in the tree. Confused and suspecting a prank, the villagers lovingly placed the icon back into the chapel and added a lock to the door. In the morning the priest unlocked the door and found the icon missing from the altar and the “lady” back in the tree. For days the battle waged on: tree-chapel-tree-chapel-tree-chapel-tree. Men even sat in the chapel all night watching for trickery.
Finally, it seemed obvious…she wanted to be in the tree. They put her there. A rich villager paid for a new icon for the chapel and she never moved again. Everyone was content. The unsolved mystery remained just that…a mystery. In later years, a wall was built, enclosing chapel with tree. Cells were built into the wall and decades later it became a monastery. Years after that …a convent.
The mystery and magic of this tree continues, and over the centuries, it has affected many people…including me and my guests. There was, in one of my groups, a young, self-proclaimed atheist woman who did not even want to step into the courtyard. “Not interested”, she shrugged. I suggested she might find the bejeweled tree interesting. I had said nothing about the tree or the legend to any of them. Grudgingly, she stepped around the chapel and up to the tree and plopped down in the dirt, sobbing…body- wrenching sobs. Concerned, I asked what was happening. She said: “I don’t know. I don’t know what is happening to me.” She was doubled over and could not stop sobbing.
By then I spoke enough Greek and had visited so often, that some of the nuns were friends. A good thing, since I had no idea what to do at that moment. I had a minibus full of people looking concerned as well. I was stymied.
Three nuns appeared from nowhere, gathered her up and she disappeared with them into their private dining room. An hour later they returned, all smiles. She did not speak on the way home. Simply rode in the back of the van, eyes closed, silent, smiling.
I keep in touch with her. She is calm and grateful and wants to return. She tells me her life changed that day. I have no answers or explanations.
So many stories to tell about this place. The little ancient nun who befriended me over the years and insisted, each time I visited, that I take a gift she had made for me. I could not refuse. She was small but mighty. She made bracelets using silk thread from silkworms that bred on the Mulberry trees outside the walls. The silk was knotted and then knotted again until a small ball was formed. The bracelet contained a series of these knots connect together. Each knot contained a prayer for the wearer. In other words…hundreds of prayers for health and safe passage…on the road and in life.
But this is a story about a tree. A sacred tree, that I visit each time I am in Crete, though the drive is long, dusty and most often hot. I am called in a way I cannot ignore…by my heart…to go there.
Ancient Olive Chapter 7
The oldest olive tree on earth lives in Crete. I had seen it years ago and was less than thrilled. Short, stubby, hollow, surrounded by tourists, most of whom were high from drinking in the sun at the taverna next door. The atmosphere was loud, hot, dirty, fly ridden and annoying. I walked around the tree under scorching sun, sighed, and hurried back to my air-conditioned car.
That was me…then.
Years later, in 2019, I got a “do-over. After decades of mentoring with elders, shaman and medicine people from around the world, in addition to 70 years of fully engaged living, 3 divorces and 4 husbands…I was a quite bit more intentional and humble…with a lot less attachment to outcome.
I had been in Crete for almost a year, fulfilling a life-long dream that, under the guidance of an amazing elder, had become a quest of writing, meditating, and time focused on connecting with myself, Spirit and Nature in my beloved Crete.
It was the end of a brutal winter and I needed to get out of my tiny, dark, damp, shuttered house. I was exhausted by hurricanes, dust storms, my solitary quest, the darkness, hideous worms everywhere inside and out, lack of water, power, peace…and Wifi…plus all the assignments I had been given by my mentor.
Complying to all spiritual assignments had not been easy for me. I felt everything from elation and bliss, to shredded and hopeless. I do not regret a single moment.
On this day, I’d been on phone call with one of my mentors and told her about the ancient olive and that I was drawn to go there. Then came instructions and assignments…all the “to dos” necessary before I could even consider a trip to the tree. I hung up overwhelmed and grumpy, but committed to being a “good spiritual student”.
Although the hurricane had passed, it was still raining in a way that I had never experienced. Thick, silvery curtains blowing and billowing, making roads into rivers. Mud and water everywhere. I decided it would be a great idea to take out the recycling and trash.
This entailed bagging up everything that had accumulated during 3 weeks of hurricanes, climbing up an extremely steep hill, dragging bags behind me through water, mud and gravel, hoisting them into my car, then driving down the super steep, narrow hill, to bins, located in the village below.
As an aside: the hill was clearly signed: “walking street” with a childlike drawing of 3 people walking. All the locals, including me, drove up and down multiple times daily. One needed good brakes on the way down and enough power and guts to floor it going up, so your speed would carry you up and over the top where you would not be seen by any passing or approaching car until too late to avoid collision. An adventurous nature was helpful and a culturally accepted norm.
After dumping everything in the appropriate bins, I sat in my car, sweating, looking through rain at blurred landscape. My car was facing West. The olive tree was about a two-hour drive to the west. Hmmm. I thought: “The tree is out there.” I took off. I drove through villages, around destroyed lanes and through detours, thinking: “Fuck that. I’ll go to the tree when I feel like it. I can decide when the time is right. I can go any time I want. I was feeling somewhere between 5 and 15 years old as I beat my way West, through weather and washouts, to the tree.
An hour and a half later I turned off the main road and headed up a narrow lane, winding up steeply to the south. The sun came out and skies cleared blue so suddenly it seemed like magic. I smiled to myself.
Up and up I climbed, with views of snow-covered mountains to the east, rolling hills to the west, and to the south, in my rearview mirror…the sea. I became a bit nervous, light-headed from my rebellious act, but most concerned by the position of the road. It sat atop a high ridge, land falling away on both sides of me. It seemed to go on forever. Had I missed a sign? Unlikely since there aren’t any out in the countryside. Those that did occasionally appear were so riddled with holes they were illegible anyway. Targets for shooting. I forged on. Up and up…I was running out of land when I came around the last bend and finally, there it was…the tree, standing alone. The taverna empty, boarded up for winter. I had it all to myself under sun-filled sky. I was breathless.
I walked to the back of the tree, invisible from the road, sat down on wet grass and wept. How could I have missed the grace and beauty of this ancient lady? It did not feel like the tree I had visited years before. It was different. I was different. We had both survived many trials and many winters. I felt a powerful connection with this old Crone of a tree…and welcomed. The old olive felt important somehow, holding so much history, mystery and wisdom…in silence.
The trunk looked like it had been crocheted by a giant grandma in her first attempt at the craft…full of irregular holes through which I could see the hollow core. I placed my palms against thick, gnarly skin and leaned in, resting my forehead on her, smelling the musk of sun-warmed bark, soaking up energy, goosebumps on my skin. I stood, knelt, sat with my back against her for a time… until I felt a shift happening. I took my time. Unusual for me. I felt no urge to leave.
I began to feel empowered in myself…for the first time…in a new way. The student feeling the beginnings of mastery in herself…a visceral sensation…steady, marrow deep and true. A deep, calm sense of who I am and how aware and respectfully I walk on the planet. After a time and deeply moved, I stood, thanked the tree, left a gift…and drove home…back into the rain...humbled, empowered, clear and grateful.
I have “owned” myself from that moment. I now value my voice as much as I do the voices and wisdom of others. For the first time in my life…I felt worthy.
Driving home, I thought about the lessons of the day. My experience of the tree was because of the difference in me. This time I was humble, without expectation…simply curious, interested and open……creating space for magic and the powerful gifts I received. I am certain of this. My attitude opened the possibility of my experience.
SO many lessons for me that day, many too personal to share. But now I know not to discount myself or others and to approach people, experiences and each day with wonder and curiosity…without judgement or attachment to outcome.
Do I succeed daily? Oh hell no. That’s what keeps me humble and “life” an ongoing adventure. And that is another lesson…I can be without self-judgement or criticism and still remain humble. I can be loving and giving without becoming a victim of my own generosity. I can be curious and courageous without being overbearing or arrogant. I can speak truth without shame or obligation.
When I returned to my house and looked across the narrow street to the olive grove there, I felt love for these trees and appreciation for the gifts they give.
Their leaves are powerfully healing. Teas and poultices for all kinds of ailments…used for thousands of years. They are a symbol of peace. Branches provide homes for birds, insects and beneath them…small animals take shelter. Olive wood provides heat in winter and charcoal for burning incense in homes and chapels.
They stand sturdy and enduring through hurricanes and can live on dirtless boulders, providing shade and supporting the land. Their fruit makes the tastiest of snacks, enhances salads and other dishes and the oil is a staple in cooking, skin care, hair growth, lighting, health and healing. They are ancient. I know. I met one.
If we are open, they teach us. We do not have to be big, or loud or young to be powerful, meaningful and of use. They are not like cedars or sequoias. They can be short and squat or tall and wild. All shapes full of greatness. They are not showy like a tulip tree, or redwood or even a weeping willow. They are themselves…as they are…no apologies. This is how I aspire to be for the rest of my life and my hope for you as well.
March 2019. Journal entry…
Thank you, olive tree. Thank you for your patience and lessons. I love this tree. I love this day. I love and respect my rebellious 5-year-old and my sassy teenager.
Now I claim my Crone. Yes. I am older, with wisdom that comes from living, erring, hurting, healing and…hopefully, more-often-than-not…learning.
Thank you, olive.
On this day in this place…my life changed. Forever
Big Leaf Maple Chapter 8
A grandmama big leaf maple, stood alone, in a clearing, in front of our new home…huge, proud, stunning…grand in shape, height and character.
A Crone. Like me.
She gave so much. Shade on long, summer afternoons kept our deck and bedroom cool on hot summer days. Hundreds and hundreds of golden, orange, and umber leaves dropped for children to pile up, dive into and spring from. Lime green light in spring. Black silhouettes against icy grey skies in winter.
Almost everyone who visited us had some sort of interaction, connection, or appreciation for her. She was the first thing I saw every morning. Beautiful and powerful, greeting the day and catching the moon in her branches on clear, winter nights. Our first arborist referred to her as: “a grand old dame that deserved to be saved.
For 17 years we nurtured her with help from arborists and experts. We kept her alive. I planted Greek oregano and primroses at her feet to keep her company.
By 2019 she had become a threat to our home. Her core had turned to mush. I didn’t want to believe it. Arborists came, with little hammers, stethoscopes, note pads, pencils and knowing looks to examine her. They all agreed she was a danger. Heads tilted skyward, they sighed, sadly shaking heads as they pronounced her hopeless.
I wish there was a happy ending to this story. But no. After several consultations with me negotiating madly for her life, she was taken down…two days before a snow and windstorm. Everyone told us we were lucky.
Our house was safe. My heart was broken. The depth of my grief surprised me. I second guessed myself. The tree was mush inside but why did the entire trunk have to go? I know what they told me about fungus spreading and sprouts coming up all over the place and on and on. But now there was not even a leaf or piece of bark to acknowledge her presence.
Not one remnant of her power and meaningful existence remained. I was bereft.
Weeks later, I was standing in the spot she had occupied, now a large circle of woodchips and dirt. Looking down, I saw a small root that had been missed, cut off at ground level. It was slowly pumping water up and out of the dirt to a tree that was no longer there. A root was trying to nourish a tree that remained only as an energetic shadow. There was a presence, an insistence, a demand for life, that touched me deeply.
I pulled up a chair. For days I drank my coffee there, beside the invisible tree, watching water ooze up into dirt, grieving and inspired by the loyal little root.
A tulip tree I planted shot up and out, growing exponentially because of extra “sky space” left behind by the absent maple. It is the king of the yard now. A new beacon reminding me of my childhood…the good part.
As an acknowledgement of my heart connection to Crete, there is also an olive tree, that appears to be committed to living here as well. Looking wild and a bit bewildered, it seems determined. For this I am grateful. Fruit trees as well…ten of them.
Trees…willows and cedars, horse chestnuts and firs, pines, maples, olives and alders. Fruit trees and cactus and more…all with varied greens and their unique personalities. Protective, destructive, inspiring, dangerous and kindly. Benevolent, powerful, beautiful and fierce. All contributing to us, to the planet. To our future…to the art of being alive. To breath.
Trees that are sacrificed for dwellings, roofs and the warmth of a fire, paper and toothpicks, trays, chairs and beds, floors, objects of art and canes and crutches and shepherd’s crooks. Baseball bats and tennis rackets, paddles, oars and boats.
Trees offering shade and peace, wind breaks and shelter, fruit, teas, poultices and nuts, pinecones and sap for maple syrup. Colored ground carpets in autumn, sweet memories of sacred trees from childhood, protective umbrellas over graves of loved ones or perfect limbs for children of all ages to climb on. Living beings to view the sky through, to look up to and so, so much more. Trees I have known and respected…I am grateful for you all.
Now I begin to ponder the depths, breadths and connections of activity under the ground. There is more to be said and to be appreciated.