Musings from the Midwest

Month: November 2021

Last Tree Standing

Strong, resilient, defiant- our tree next to our house always seems to be the last tree standing clothed.  Others gave up their fancy robes and are now baring their branches to the sky. 

Not our gal, she remains clothed in splendor, unwilling to give up her orange robe–either afraid to shiver longer through the winter months, or protected from the winds that have stripped the other neighborhood trees. She scoffs at the others who have been chastened to move on to the next thing.  She laughs at the days to come. 

The leaves cling to her branches. Browning now. Shriveled. Dejected. Unyielding, they hang on. 

I can’t tell if it’s pure tenacity keeping them attached, or if it’s the deep care and love and nutrients provided for them, that have kept them from their inevitable release.  

For a few brief moments in time leaves clutter the yard filling it with color and texture, begging rakes and leaf jumpers. Inviting play, inviting work.

Wet, sloppy fodder for the master builders of all things winter. Little critters prepare their dens. Little children prepare their piles. Little humans prepare their plan of attack. 

The unfortunate ones who’ve scattered too close to our front have found themselves blown, chopped, mulched and bagged for another foreign land.  They are forced to bring nutrients and life to a place that has never known their beauty. 

Others will remain next to us, until the parks mower man arrives to do it’s best to help them onto their next death, their next life, their next mission, their next meal for the million of a critters who we can’t see beneath our feet– providing all things for us tirelessly and without glory.

She knows it’s coming. The cold. The wind. The bright blue skies more visible through her barren branches.  Blinding sun. Frigid temps. Wet. White. Snow. Providing the best blanket winter can offer to her until the world invites her offerings of green once more. 

She’s been here before.  She’s seen these days come and go.  “‘Tis a season,” they say.  As if a season can’t be long and unrelenting- a million moments in every day, hundreds of hours every week, and weeks that seem to stretch for miles before the promised light at the end of the tunnel arrives. 

She braces for this journey.  Is she ready? It’s lonely but for the few brave souls who have found a home in her branches, thanking her for the gift of safety for the days to come.

She is. It’s time. One. Last. Drop. Welcome Winter.

You come as an inevitable guest. Not always invited, but inescapable, predictable and necessary nonetheless.   She welcomes you- season of hardship, of stark contrasts, of monotones and maker of ear-muff days. 

I welcome you because you too are part of my journey. A companion to my life. An environment for my… good…despite or maybe even in it’s pain.

Fall of Reflection

This fall has been a time of reflection for me.  A chance when life has slowed down enough with more kids in school, and a friend watching my littles once a week, I finally have a little space for myself.  I’m dubbing it my “Sabbatical Year of Self Care.”   While I do have hopes of writing more and getting research done during this time, it’s also a time for me to just focus on my emotional, physical, and spiritual needs rather than looking to constantly caregive for others.  I’ve needed this space and this space needed me- a carved out nook in time and space where I can focus on just being.

It’s been a space for grief.  A space for joy.  A space for wonder. A space for anger. A space for friendship.  A space for others to look after me. 

Fall break last year in 2020 had been such a gift- it was a burning fire of glory in a full on pandemic. The trees had never been so beautiful, all peaking at the same time on my parents farm.  It was nature in a healing way that sometimes only experience outside can provide.  It was connection with my family after isolation and lockdowns. I had just started taking an author class to learn how to try and do this thing called ‘writing’ professionally. It had been a time of hope and dreaming of the future.

This year I was able to go back and enjoy the farm once again.  It was a strange parallel from last year.   This year it was rainy, gloomy, the trees were green and resilient to change due to the warmer summer.  My recollection of starting my author school and commitment to writing left me somewhat discouraged that a whole year had passed and yet still I had nothing ‘major’ accomplished.  My time with family was just as nice and despite the dreary weather the kids had found fun rainy day activities like performing plays in the barn loft and swinging from the rope swing.  And ironically while the year before had been so bright and beautiful the constant sunshine had made it more difficult to capture the beauty of the trees.  It’s the gray skies that allow the richness of colors to pop and come alive to our eyes.

I had to remind myself, that although a year had passed and nothing major to show for it, I had lots of little things to show.  I had rejoined social media and broadened my circles, joining new communities online.  I had deeper friendships with people I had spent time with and reconnected.  I had started reading again, enjoying the words of others.  I had even started a blog and website.  While those weren’t necessarily the accomplishments that felt like a giant pat on the back, it’s a realization that they are the stepping stones that added together are a big deal. The idiom: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, brings me some solace.

While disappointed that the trees wouldn’t show their vibrancy while I was there, I had to recognize, they too were at the whims of the climate around them.  The warmer summer, the humidity in the air all factoring in.  They are forced to adjust and peak when it is their time, when the environment has assisted in this spectacular task of losing their chlorophyll in preparation for the winter, some producing anthocyanin -red pigment, an antioxidant protecting it for what is to come. (The carotenoid produces the yellow in leaves, anthocyanin and carotenoids- orange, anthocyanin and chlorophyll produce brown.) I’m encouraged, that like scientists who until recently thought there was leaves were merely being unmasked, that now we know anthocyanin is made. A reminder that even in preparation for death there is work to do.

In my life I may not understand why my peak is taking longer and what these deaths are in preparation for, but that doesn’t mean my soil isn’t richer because of it and next year conditions might permit an even fuller display of glory and growth.

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