Tuesday, May 14, 2013
3-11-13 RMB A Tree Friend
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
In Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual you write “I would classify plants and animals as arational. No, I’m not saying they can’t think; they can.” The chapter was not about plants and animals of course, but that sentence meant a lot.
I was driving with my ever so enlightened friend home after work one evening, before I knew her really well, before I had ventured to show her all my mystical musings. I knew I trusted her, rare for me. Not that I don’t think people are trustworthy, however I know people are people…enough said.
Something about her was different in a way that I thought she would understand my differences. As I drove, I asked if she would like to meet a friend that lived a few blocks away. “Sure” she said, always game for an adventure. I love that about her. We drove to the street of the church I attended. I pulled over and got out of the car, standing on the sidewalk in the dark. She came over to stand by me.
Second thoughts sprung up, but I figured it was too late to chicken out. I stepped onto the small patch of grass between the street and sidewalk, placed my hand on a gorgeous, giant tree and said “This is my friend the tree.”
One may ask how one becomes friends with a tree. Well, you might not, because you probably have tree friends. The way it happened for me was that I often walked past that tree on my way to church. On nights when I needed to pace, or walk around the block, to work through my own thoughts, I found myself drawn to that tree. When near it, I felt more at peace. It was a good friend, offering comfort on a regular basis for years. Sometimes swaying in the wind in a smooth and inviting dance, sometimes flinging raindrops down on me from its waving leaves, it could be playful and it could be serious.
On that particular evening it was beautiful, its roots had spread, lifting both the concrete of the sidewalk and the blacktop of the street. Its trunk was massive.
Without missing a beat the woman beside me said “Well hello there.” My first thought was that she was only humoring me. Then she did something that warmed my soul. She stepped closer to the tree; put both hands on its old, rough trunk and spoke to the tree without saying a word. I watched the exchange, watched them get to know each other for a couple brief moments.
She had told me about a favorite tree she had when she was growing up. It wasn’t exactly the same kind of relationship but it was very close. We talk about that night now and then. It was a turning point for us. She saw a part of me that may have opened up how she would see everything from then on. I watched a friendship spread from one friend to another, even though the older friend was a tree.
The tree was removed a while back. It lived a full, long life. Sometimes I visit the roots that still linger there, poking up mischievously. More often though, I visit my friend in my heart, it will live there forever.
Thank you Rita Mae, for shedding light on nature and our connection to it in your work,