Friday, October 27, 2023

Field Notes on the Luxury of Being


A walk into town always presents a row of magnificent trees lining the sidewalk next to the road in front of the Catholic Church. Spread about twenty paces apart, one freshly cut down, ("Oh no! A sibling lost to weariness!") but close enough to pedestrians inclined to reach out and convene an exchange that only touch itself can explain...the soldiers of our very breath itself stand tall and clipped around the power lines. 

Some of them rebelliously push the sidewalk to cracking but, hey, how else are they going to get noticed? My favorite, for some unknown reason, calls to me often and I have reached out for a pat or sat next to him many times. Except today. It never occurred to me my tree friend could hold me. Embrace me and contain what my skin cannot. Perfectly curved armrest roots exposed, the trunk an angle to beat any chiropractic care, and a mossy seat with a direct link to the dark, still elixir of the earth herself. I sit down and rest. And heal.

I see a someone, (later I know as Stan,) making his way up the incline. He stops, grabs his chest and bends over for air. Having known the terror of a fragile heart myself, I stand up to assess. He walks again. I see his stubbornness on his face and walk towards him the second time he bends. I call out to ask if he needs help. He waves me away. When I get near, he stands and passes me quickly, panting and head high, "I have to get to The Church." I back off and watch him pass and keep my eyes on him as he bends two more times until greeted by another person I assume is meeting him at The Church.

I notice he's carrying a cube shaped tote and wonder what meeting, more important than a cardiac arrest, his pastries needed to attend. I walk on into town and get a haircut.

On my way back, I pop in a local shop selling goods by local artists and enjoy the leisure I've awarded myself for the day to care for and transcend the autumn-ness of my emotional, transitional, karmic realities. And I'm feeling blessed for the privilege of time to slow down. Think. Learn. Feel and listen to what my nerves are predicting and protecting. I give myself the day to keep shields down and senses on full receive.

Talking to my bestie through my headphones on the way, she had heard in real time the exchange as I'd encountered The Leaning Man on a Mission To The Church. She and I are chatting on and off. (Sometimes we're just "together" in silence.) I had expressed that perhaps the appearance of the gap between our generations, created a common bias and had made him reject my concern. No matter. Just an assumption in a long line of daily discernments. Forgotten in minutes. 

I pass my tree friend on my way back home and a shower of acorns fall around me. One even bounces off the ground and pegs a paper bag I carry, leaving a mark. "Agh! Acorns!" I speed up and am shocked I'm not aching from one on the top of my skull. (Sometimes I'm blessed with bird poop, once a large tree branch as a child, and in NYC, someone once spat on my head, the target, and once I was knocked unconscious from the siding that peeled off of a building in a brisk wind. Including the many stitches from my early years, I tend to attract head wounds—literal and metaphorical.) As I escape the shower, I think "Oh my friend really needed me to have asked to have sat in his lap. He's angry." But then another thought occurs: he was trying to get my attention. 

I turn around. Give him a smirk. And walk back to sit on his thrown. I never saw Stan coming.

The moment I'm down and grateful for another horticultural hug, The Man Now Without Pastries, says, "I wanted to thank you for checking on me," and we begin a conversation of care and gratitude and shared cardiological diagnosis. I tell him the next time he needs a break on his walk he should consider my friend's thrown on which I was sitting.

As he leaves, I call out and give him my name. He turns around and tells me he is Stan. My bestie heard the entire event even as I walked away in tears. "If my tree hadn't called me back, I would never have known Stan. Never have known my impetus to "meddle" is sometimes indeed helpful. And I never would have felt so held by everything and everyone around me." 

She tells me "I'm not just blowing wind up your skirt when I tell you you're magic" and I remind her that her love and belief in me over our 30+ year sisterhood is one of the only reasons I even figured out how to receive such beauty and love from my surroundings in the first place. 

I walked home feeling like I mattered. Sometimes loving others helps you love yourself. And sometimes loving yourself comes from letting others love you. Including the trees.

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