Tag Archives: trees

Autumn in Tennessee

Autumn opened its eyes, smiled, still half asleep, and rolled over.

At least, that is what it felt like.

We had a spell of cool weather, unseasonably, bizarrely cool, but lovely. Right on its edge, I thought I caught the scent of Autumn. There is no smell like it, no smell that quickens my blood that much. It is like the breath of God entering my lungs and enlivening the spirit He once breathed into me.

August, in my hometown, is hot, oppressive, and usually muggy (though we are in a mild drought this time). 30+ years living here, and indeed, further south where it is worse, have not helped me to like summer weather.

There are things I like about summer. The food is great, the greens of the landscape are rich, some of my favorite wildflowers put on a show and there are awesome insects and migratory birds everywhere. The other day I saw a clearwing moth, and just yesterday, I watched two female ruby-throated hummingbirds compete over coral honeysuckle, native salvia and a feeder.  And cicadas. I revel in summer cicada-song! But the heat and humidity wear me down quickly, and I run inside to escape.

The three other seasons, though, make up for the heaviness. For one thing, our seasons are pretty evenly spaced, around 3 months apiece. Spring, instead of being a brief link between winter and summer, is a long stretch of flower successions, greening, warming, and rain. It smells of sap and clean earth and breaks through the grays of winter with sharp, vibrant splashes of yellow, purple and white. Then, as the green begins to show, red, orange and blue mix in with the first colors, like a Fauve painting.

Winter, here, has little in the way of snow or persistent ice (though we always get some) but it is filled with opalescent grays, fawn-browns, and frost. A hillside covered with mostly deciduous trees looks like the speckled flank of a sleeping beast with a long, soft, gray-brown winter coat. It is subtle, and yet beautiful, like the many grays of the limestone sky. And in the morning, as I go to work in the dark, the street-lights set lawns and leaves sparkling with frost. It is as if every surface of the world is covered in glitter, and the smell of frost quickens the cold air.

But autumn. It leaves the rest behind. For some reason, the season of dying is life-giving to me. Sumac is the first to turn, a brilliant scarlet, brighter than flame or blood. The sugar-maples, perhaps the most spectacular, create a spectrum that runs from green, through yellows and oranges and into red, all at the same time. They look like shards of living rainbow. Sweetgums turn dark crimson, purple and black. Each tree species (and sometimes each tree) has its pattern and its method, and we have well over 100 species here. Some non-evergreens even retain their dead leaves to whisper through the winter, shedding them only when the new growth arrives in the spring.

One of my favorite species, eastern red cedar (which is actually a juniper) is an evergreen, though it takes on a winter sheen of dark bronze.

But if it were just about visual wonder, Spring and Autumn would be equally loved by me. They are not.

Spring breaks into winter just when I am weary of the gray. It is welcome and enlivening. But there is something about Autumn air. It blows across my mind, causing the embers there to redden, dusting away the white ash until flames flicker to life. It sparks my creativity, my well-being, my life. The taste we had recently whetted my appetite for that rare wind. I am never satisfied, it is never enough. Even in this place, that has a long autumn, it is too brief.

But for that short time, every year, I seem to touch something beyond myself. Perhaps it really is a time when the boundaries between worlds grows thin. I do not fear fairies, or the dead. What I feel coming near is different from that. It is the Christian song. I feel like I breathe in eternity, that eternity that is already here, present within me, but that I do not fully understand. Not yet. Not yet, but one day. Until that day, I have the contradictions, the mystery, a keyhole through a door.

Autumn, dying and living, curling up to sleep, comfort in fear, but not a vulgar fear as of being afraid. I am not afraid, but my heart is racing. It is so hard to express.  I think C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton are right about that desire. The desire I feel that is soothed a little in this world, but never satisfied, the hunger for the excitement of adventure coupled with the comfort of coming home, that contradiction in my soul during Fall, fear and comfort, excitement and peace, thrill and balm.

I think of Bilbo Baggins. That journey at my feet, the road tugging at me, that song in the wind. Maybe that is why Bilbo’s song always brings me tears, good tears, and makes me think of Autumn.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-J. R. R. Tolkien: From Bilbo, in The Hobbit and (the last stanza) Lord of the Rings.

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*I’ve been told that this post can easily be taken as disrespectful to other beliefs. If you find it so, I apologize. That was not my intent.


Five things

My delightfully contentious blogging friend, Sharon, recently posted 5 things that she had run across recently that she wanted to discuss with people: 5 things  that I’d like to talk about.  Shaking people up and making them think is an excellent action and very necessary to the growth and health of individuals and society. It’s hard work, thinking, and sometimes we have to have a fire lit under our toes to make us do it.

However, Sharon and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of topics from the love of God to issues of feminism (yes, I am a feminist. I promise it’s not a bad word if you understand what it means. Ask me!). I’m pretty sure she and I would come down on the same side of any of those discussions, and some of them involve listening to people or reading things that would only make me angry. Given what I said above, about thinking, I should probably put forth the effort.

The truth is, I am weary, physically and mentally. I feel a little guilty, that little voice in my head is calling me “coward,” but this time I am giving myself leeway. 2013 was a bit of a marathon for me. I need to recoup. I’ve barely been here for the month of December, and my friends on e-mail probably wonder if I have fallen into a sinkhole.

So, somewhat selfishly, I asked Sharon to share something different.

I feel that the best response to her kindness would be to post five things that have made me feel better over the past few weeks.

Wolverine the Musical

Ok, so, yes, I discovered this a while ago, but I still return to it when I need a good laugh. Glove and Boots!

Origami Masks by Joel Cooper

Mask inspired by ancient statuary, shaped from folded paper.  All I really have to say to this is ‘holy raving Jabberwoky.’ I love making masks, but artistry like this is beyond me. I love it!

http://mynewspress.com/new-tessellated-origami-masks-by-joel-cooper/

The American Chestnut

I am a plant-nerd, so I care about such things. Feel free to roll your eyes at me and move on.

In the early 1900’s, a blight from Asia was accidentally introduced to the U.S.A. Over the next 30 or so years, it all but obliterated what was then one of the dominant trees of our Eastern forests, the American Chestnut. I won’t bore you with details, but the result was catastrophic to humans and wildlife alike.

In 1983, the American Chestnut Society was formed. Since then they have worked with the few remaining American Chestnuts and the blight-resistant Chinese Chestnut, attempting to breed an American Chestnut tree that can survive the blight. Recent progress has opened the possibility of my seeing American Chestnuts growing in our woods in my lifetime.

In a world where many of my favorite native plants and animals are under serious threat, where exotic-invasives, pollution, and thoughtless development present seemingly insurmountable obstacles to my local ecosystems, the prospect of an actual victory is like a lantern in a cave. It makes me so happy I could cry.

Stranger in a Strange Land: Ender’s Game, its controversial author, and a very personal history, by Rany Jazayerli

This article is somewhat controversial, and very long, but thoughtful and worth the read. I discovered it through my brother and it made me think, but in an encouraging way, and I will tell you why.

There are a lot of issues wrapped up in this. How people change over time, how it is not wise to condemn everything a person says or has ever said because part of it goes against your own views or beliefs, that the most important part of anything said or written may lie in the interpretation rather than the intent, and that people are flawed. Jumping on the rage-button really is counter-productive. It circumvents thought.

But what I found encouraging is something of a rabbit-trail.  I am flawed. Yes, I know, everyone is, but I live with my flaws daily and sometimes they loom very large in my vision. This article reminded me of something that is, I think, important for writers to remember:

I and my work are two different things.

Maybe my flaws will manifest in my work. That does happen. Hopefully my strengths will,  too. But maybe, God willing, people who read my work will find things there, hopefully good things, that transcend me, my flaws, and even my strengths. Writing depends on the reading. There’s cause for fear. Fear of being misunderstood runs deep in me. But not all misunderstanding is bad, I guess. There is encouragement in that thought. ‘

 

Finally, I give you the singing light:

Sometimes we just get lucky and catch the light. I wish I had a better copy of this picture on hand. I may try and update it later.

Singing light


t-615

The other day a fellow blogger payed me a compliment. Referring to the blip on my gravatar profile, he said that I am “not merely ‘another tree in the proverbial forest.'”

I am honored by his opinion.  Yet I do not agree.

Where most folks notice deer, or birds, or even people, I notice trees. Persimmon mosaics, scarlet oaks like frozen lightning, sycamores like living bone, loblolly pines with their spicy scent, some old, some young, twisted, smooth, and each with an intricate story. They remind me a lot of people.

Thinking I am like a tree, then, is no false humility. It would be base pride, save that the people in my life remind me, constantly, that there is a vast forest around me. This forest is amazing, wonderful and terrible. It contains horrors I cannot wrap my mind around, and feats of love and bravery (large and small) that astound me.

The tricky thing about being a “tree” is trying to figure out where you fit in the forest. A maple trying to be an oak won’t get very far, and will commit the crime of failing to be a maple.

My friend Emily Landham and her friend Lauren Carpenter recently had the courage, when faced with the overwhelming horror of modern-day Slavery, to ask themselves what they could do. They have the wisdom to know that they are not prepared, equipped or called to do all that needs to be done. So, instead, they sought out a way to use their own strengths in the fight. I will let them speak for themselves:


t-615 is our response to join and advance the abolition of modern day slavery. The victims must remain silent to survive, so we must do the shouting. We will use our creativity to share their story. Specifically, we will wear their story. We invite you to do the same. Twenty-five percent of our profits go to safe houses around the world where rescued victims are loved, protected and empowered to embrace their freedom. Together we can be a voice for those forced to silence. We can raise funds for those who are equipped to rescue, to protect, to heal, to council.  –t-615 website

I will only add this: I see integrity and dedication to the cause in my friend. She is diligent in seeking the best way to make the funds raised by t-615 directly impact victims of human trafficking. She is using her gifts, and I am supporting her with mine.

We need your strengths, too.

I am number 82. My mother is number 8.

I am a number, I am a tree, I am a person.

Photo by Harry K. Whitver

Photo by Harry K. Whitver

p.s. I didn’t realize until I published it, but this is my 82nd post. Wow.


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