I was so excited to get this prompt, but like with all of the prompts I’ve waited to the last minute and I can’t think of anything to say.
As it happens, I love trees. There are two trees at my church that I love for very different reasons. The first is the large green tree behind the main sign. Last year, I would sit there and cry after my friend died. I didn’t have a place of worship and since I had Mass said for her here, I got very attached to this tree. It was very comforting.
The second tree can be seen perfectly from where I sit in the pew, but only if the window is open. The first time I noticed it, it was raining and the angle of the window and the view I had, it emotionally came upon me as Wales, so that is my Wales tree and it brings a smile to my face whenever I catch a glimpse of it during my visits to the church.
There are other trees that I remember throughout my life. The tree in Eisenhower Park near the Amphitheatre where we would air band front for Duran Duran and I was their air photographer. If only I’d brought my very real camera, I could have been the very real photographer for the air band. I used to sit with my back against this tree and write stories. It didn’t have a name then, but now it has its own fandom, Band Fiction I think or something so obvious it’s painful.
There’s the quasi-Christmas tree that was always outside my mother’s bedroom window that finally had to be taken down when it was hit once too many times by lightning.
The trees along the road in the Cotswolds while we walked off the rain and the cider until the warden would let us back into the hostel at Stow-on-the-Wold. And he did, early in fact because he felt badly for us in their tiny town, in the rain, on a Sunday in January with no bus service. Did I mention it was Sunday?
There were the trees that we bobbed and weaved around hoping not to break anything or die trying as we slid down on a poncho along the snow covered Craigower hill in Scotland during a snowstorm. When we got to the bottom, the sun was shining.
Of all the trees in my life, I especially love the trees usually used to depict the Trees of Life. The full leafy tops and the strong sturdy bottoms with the roots finding their ways away from the trunk into the nooks and crannies of the ground, creating paths much as we create the paths in our lives.
In fact, I love the Trees of Life so much that I’ve asked my friend to sketch me one to hang in my office, but he keeps forgetting (and that’s not a guilt trip; it’s really not). It’s almost as though he forgets that sketch and I forget this essay and we both exclaim, ‘oh crap!’ at about the same time when we’re reminded with that sheepish yet confused look on our faces.
I just got back from visiting him in Williamsburg, Virginia. I will probably be writing about this a lot. There are so many prompts that I’ve been jotting down the little things for when that random prompt inspires a random free write.
To get to Virginia from New York, I took the train round trip on Amtrak. I suppose Amtrak is really the only option if you’re taking the train. The one thing I noticed, in addition to the fact that I think I prefer train travel to any other kind of transportation, is that the entire East Coast from Upstate (Central) New York to Southern Virginia is all Trees and Water with the occasional Trees in Water or Water surrounding Trees, but that despite any other scenery whether it was a big city (Baltimore or DC) or a small town (Hudson or Ashland) once you’ve slipped out of ‘civilization’ you were back in the trees broken up only by some kind of body of water.
Traveling south you could see how much of spring had sprung. The greens deepening, the branches disappearing under the close knit covering of the leaves, the ground a blanket of shaggy grass and clover and weeds and bushes all vying for the attention of the limited sun. The further south you traveled the more that spring was apparent.
The sun was also warmer down South. I had been told not to bring a jacket and I actually listened for once. Nights were cool, but not cool enough that I was cold without a jacket.
Having once arrived at my friend’s house, the trees were everywhere, clearing just enough to let the car in and reveal the house and outbuildings. It was like hiking through a forest and in the clearing there was a house, the garage, the studio, the paddock and the horses. There was the garden, both vegetables and herbs and an enclosed area for the dogs where the roses grew. It is a very country kind of place, almost unexpected for my friend whose heart belongs to the city places.
For me, that is the one thing I enjoy about suburbia-bordering-on-rural. It is close enough to do anything. It is not in the middle of nowhere although it does feel that way sometimes, but in the mornings with a cup of tea in hand, there are animals and dogs barking and branches brushing against windows in the country breeze. There is the flicker of sunlight through the thick leaves and a sturdy trunk to lean your back against, your head tilted until you can look straight up into the woven roof held together by branches and birds’ nests and squirrel fur. The sun is there and it glimmers and blinks, peeking through tiny spaces, but there is enough of a covering that your eyes are not bothered by the sun and the heat is filtered and spaced in the shade.
I always have pen and paper, but I also always forget while sitting under the tree, staring at the life we forget about in the hustle and bustle of errands and kids and work and arguments and whatever that is not in the mini-forest of home.
Despite it not being my home, the nature here – the large and the small trees, the pines and the maples, the oaks and the others – they are everywhere and if they are everywhere they are also home and so it is a home of sorts for me as well.
I don’t want to leave this home. The responsibilities are different, the bed is different, the deep dark foresty-like covering is different and I am a little different. I can be someone else here, I can be me here, and I don’t want to leave.
I think this as we drive past the cluster of trees that form the driveway and I look back once more at the house and the garden and squint to see the horse and pick a tree to be mine for when I come back, but as much as I miss the friend I was visiting, I really miss the me I was under those Virginia trees and I want to go back.