As a young girl, I was frequently drawn to the birch tree in my front yard. To my young eyes, the trunk looked wounded or like peeling skin. Maybe it was trying to escape itself, I thought. Sometimes, I felt like escaping myself, too, so this was something we had in common. My birch was unique. It was beautiful. It fascinated me with its rugged underflesh. Even the copse of trees near the creek was void of anything like my old birch.
There were no other kids in the neighborhood, that I know of, who would stand under their tree and dream about what it was like to be a tree. I’d close my eyes and allow only my upper body to sway to the rhythm of the wind, my feet and legs frozen, trunk-like, with imaginary roots holding me steady, in place.
It was puzzling for me to think about how trees, although it seemed like fun to move with the wind, to change according to the seasons, to soak in the sun and play in the rain, it didn’t seem fun to be exposed to the wild, unpredictable reality of the elements, to be held captive with roots forever dependent on the earth for sustenance and stability.
As an adult, I’m not puzzled about trees anymore. I know now that it’s a tree’s stability through their roots, their connection to nature, and their constant focus on purpose that builds their character, their strength, and these qualities are what frees them.
I understand now that captivity and dependency is in the instability not the stability, in the lack of roots not the roots, the inability to connect to the earth not the connection.
To my young eyes, my old birch looked wounded and it’s skin looked like it was peeling away, trying to escape itself. To my mature eyes, the memory of my old birch reveals its true beauty, the rugged beauty that comes from the relentless elements of a well-lived life, free and confident in its own skin.
I wrote a poem about my neighborhood that mentions my birch tree.
One day I’ll go back again
and stand under that old birch
my gaze, myopic down fiftieth–
my memories, abstract space
The red door will welcome me
and I’ll tip-toe up the stairway
to my dreams
If I listen, I’ll hear it
calling me outside to play
red and blue–canvas on top
I’ll take a seat; I’ll sing, “Up, Up, and away
Serenity lives alongside
playful snapdragon and Lily of the Valley
One thousand footprints
lead me through grass and clover
Red Owl on Saturday
still holds Sweet Tarts on the shelf
they burn my tongue
they smell like lemon-lime
One day, I’ll go back
I’ll take those pieces left behind
I’ll hold them close until–
the one day I go back again
Hugs from the Heart,