The first time I ever recall “remembering” the leaves falling from trees,
their autumn colors catching the glint of the early fall sun,
was the day my grandpa died.
For some reason his death reminded me of a tree.
Not the tree that is in full spring bloom, with aromatic flower petals perfuming the newness of the Spring air.
And not the tree, fully swollen, offering much needed shade on a hot summer day.
No. It was the dying tree, it’s leaves crisp and crackly, colored blood red, fire orange, and burnt yellow, that cocooned me that day, much like the flannel shirts he would often wear, me beckoning him to stay.
And seeing that I was cold, he would envelop me in one of them, a thousand sizes larger than what I wore….. surrounding me also with a warm, musky scent, the remnants of the aftershave he bore.
The tree reminded me of the colors of my favorite flannel of his, with it’s warm hues of late Indian summer…
The shirt that I then wore to bed each night, until months later, the worn raggedness of it, finally, was less of a covering, than no covering at all.
….And maybe that remembrance of the autumn tree, at so early a young age, was actually preparing me for winter trees, and the unprepared deaths that lay ahead.
Trees, stripped of their fall explosions, standing stark and silent against harsh winter skies…..
Trees that once gave so much life, but now seem to have been shuttered, would become to me, the strongest of them all.
It’s with THESE trees that I have felt the most companionship with, the most closeness with, in my life.
Many times in my years I’ve found myself on dark, shadowless paths; journeys that most closely resemble the depth of the darkest days, and the months that stand silent, like timeless winter trees, even amongst the gales that scream.
These are the months, where seemingly nothing lives, nothing whispers, life seems to have been snuffed out before the night.
The days where there is no rustle, no ragged breeze, not one voice to be found in life’s audience.
The haunting beauty of a leafless tree, seemingly barren of all life, standing silent in the raging storm….it draws me in, and holds me tight, and whispers it’s ok.
The beauty of a stripped tree, standing still , is that what you see is what you get.
There are no games, no hidden cues, no foilage demanding to help hide.
There are no lies. No cover-ups. No place for shame-blamed bruises to collectively reside.
So the winter tree, so plainly seen, helps me to breathe in, and just be.
It reminds me that, when all else fades, the root is what we see.
And the roots are made, not in the blaze of summer’s inviting gaze.
But insteaed they’re made, dug deeply down, through the piercing of the winter’s glaze.
And it was in that season, one winter, or ten, that the tree gently whispered to me.
He said, “My dear, you stood on your own, unassumingly.
And you,through blizzards and freezes quietly grew….
And the best kept truth about enduring such pain, about being so gutted and thrown askew, is that deep inside the tree, quietly, new life hibernates anew….
And not today, and maybe not the next, for the winter season is not yet past….
But one day, the thaw will come, and the air will be birthed warm and new.
And that tree that stands, so silently, with seemingly nothing to show…
will one day, under the weight of it’s limbs, burst with a beauty that is fresh and aglow.
So stand strong, oh leafless one, when you feel most rejected, you’re not.
For much like a cactus, who stands dry and taut, seemingly dead to the uninformed touch..
Deep in your trunk, buried beneath, far from the external swell,
your life harbors a refreshing, lifegiving, drought-quenching, well.