Winter Trees II, the Lost Partner

lost little tree alas

Small sidewalk trees on my busy street have it tough. There’s exhaust, the sides of buses, noise, windy storms that stampede up from the harbor, and the occasional drunk college student. I appreciate them and their stamina when I wait for the bus, when buds are appearing, or foliage is saturating a patch of my day. The bare winter branches have their own relationship to varying sky color and the streetlights and also inspire me.

The newest, a little ginkgo with fan-shaped leaves, became a favorite. The fans fluttered a snap-pea green that turned into lemon yellow in autumn. Its knobby branches with their rapier attitude enticed out the phone camera, and made me want to learn calligraphy and ink arts.

Alas. A recent storm’s gusts half-strangled me in my own scarf, and the next trip to the bus stop…alas. Only a thin stump left, looking gnawed. A yoga teacher used to remind us that every pose we do we also undo, that the force that creates also destroys, in its rolling loop. The wind catches words like “Stay” and “Mine” and whips them out of sight.  But there was no such philosophy at the bus stop. Just damp eyes.

It is what it is.  Being attached to a source of creative inspiration equals waiting for it to disappear, or knowing it will be there when you yourself are gone. Trees and I strive on.

Winter Trees I

Comm 1Comm 2Tree Lights 1

Boston, like many cities, has malls, and in ours, “stuffed lobster” can be either a cuddly red toy or your dinner. Moving on…

It also has The Mall, in the old-fashioned sense of a shady promenade, with benches, statues, and a central path flanked by trees, running up the middle of An Avenue of Note. Those it was originally designed to delight lived in Gilded Age urban mansions and townhouses.

In winter, the two rows of trees are wrapped in white lights, an eye-feast whether you’re looking up into branches or down at block after block of bright shapes. In the late winter twilight, they glow with a windy softness, like a field of fireflies. In the black dark of a clear winter night, they are fierce.

People chose creatively where to drape, what to wrap. There’s a sense of people seeing each tree’s individuality, the result of species, weather, angles of light, and the large, slow patterns of the Universe’s Creativity.

They’ll be shut off soon for the season, and leaves will take over from the lights as a different multitude, and everything will change.

Tree Pose

bc trees

I’ve mentioned my grandmother before. She was an  outdoorsy young person, even though she grew up poor on the Lower East Side. Dealing with life, I think she found her comfort in Nature.  In the pictures I have of her as a young woman, she’s wearing a bathing suit with stockings, or hiking shorts and hat atop a mountain.

A story I consider central to my life is the one she often told of the friend who said to her dismissively, “You see one tree, you’ve seen them all.” And that, Gram would always finish, was the Saddest Thing she had ever heard anybody say. I have a passion  the sight of trees, in all seasons. Because I’ve just never known otherwise; I’m fortunate in that way.

So this week I was listening to the On Being interview with artist Maira Kalman. She and host Krista Tippett had this exchange:

Ms. Tippett: Here’s another line of yours I love: “We see trees. What more do we need?”

Ms. Kalman: That’s really true….And so walking and looking at trees really is one of the glories of the world, and we say, “Rejoice,” when we see these things.

Well, yeah.

But a Buddhist teacher I once read explained that we don’t actually look at a tree. We look at ourselves looking at a tree. I bristled at that statement because, hell, I knew how to Look at Trees. But when I really got that he was right, experienced that as true, and my ego died one more death, I learned a lot.

I take many pictures of trees, even though they are surely still pictures of my own Looking: my sense of, and Need for, the world’s Creativity. That is OK. Trees are patient, and waiting, and I’m taking one human step at a time with the intention to see them.

My image is from Dec 24, 2018, on Boston Common.