I have a folder in Microsoft’s OneNote. The folder is called “Miscellaneous Writing.” of course this is just another way of saying, “shit I’m working on.” Anyway, I was scrolling through the titles seeing what I can finish. I have many titles and partially started posts. Some will never be complete, instead, they will wither and die on the vine like grapes which have not been picked. There are posts which cause me to pause and ask, “What was I thinking when I was writing this?” I came across a post I had titled, “The tree…” I had forgotten about this post and was only reminded because I recently wrote and published another post about the same tree. I thought about taking the additional words which are included here and adding them to the original post and then I said, “Fuck it! I’m just going to publish this piece separately.”
Last week I was having a conversation with a friend about our mutual love for nature. We were sitting in a pair of Adirondack chairs in my backyard. We were discussing our mutual love for shin-rin yoku which is what the Japanese refer to as “forest bathing.” the first time I ever mentioned the phrase “forest bathing” to someone, I got exactly what I should have expected as a response. “So basically you go into the woods, get naked and take a shower?” No dumbass! Now normally I have a pretty good sense of humor and laugh at a lot of stuff, but this response came before I could explain the term and even then the look shot my way was similar to the look I receive when I talk to my dog. You know that look when you talk to your dog and they cock their head from side to side. I apparently need to rethink some of the people I allow into my inner circle. I love to simply be present in the woods.
A friend turned me on to Marilynne Robinson’s book “Home.”
This excerpt caught my interest because there is such a tree in the yard across from my house. I have watched this tree grow and change in the 27-years in which I have shared a space with it. I have remarked to my wife and anyone else who would listen that it is the “perfect tree.” I have spent many hours over the years watching that tree, wondering and contemplating. In some ways, it has been a silent therapist for me.
For me, perfection is defined in something which is not often found in nature. That is symmetry. I have learned over these many years that nothing is perfect and nature has been my teacher and a constant reminder of this fact. This teacher has taught me that like nature, life is not perfect and in that perfection can be found what I call the “beauty of imperfection.”
“And there was the oak tree in front of the house, much older than the neighborhood or the town, which made rubble of the pavement at its foot and flung its imponderable branches out over the road and across the yard, branches whose girths were greater than the trunk of any ordinary tree. There was a torsion in its body that made it look like a giant dervish to them. Their father said if they could see as God can, in geological time, they would see it leap out of the ground and turn in the sun and spread its arms and bask in the joys of being an oak tree in Iowa.”
— Marilynne Robinson,
Today the tree, much like myself is beginning to show its age.
It remains symmetrical. Some branches now do not contain leaves. This has nothing to do with the time of year as much as the progression of life as we approach old age and ultimately death.
I continue to see beauty in this tree. As an oak, it remains strong in that it has withstood the test of many years and its branches remain outstretched welcoming squirrels in the neighborhood with residence and food and for those of us who are willing to see, shade from the sun.
Eventually like another tree across from my house, this one too will lose its life and die. It will be cut down, the stump ground and grass planted where it one stood with majesty. Another generation will move in and no one will remember this tree.