This window serves me up the weather report every morning. I blink my eyes open and contemplate the day. It’s winter. The sky is blue. The sun is shining. It looks bright, cold, but warming. Some days I don’t notice, because it’s before the dawn and my alarm bolts me out of bed and I stumble through the darkness. The light tells a different story. As the light changes from season to season, I watch the trees from this window, year after year. I am told what I need to face the day. Day after day. I am told what to be grateful for when I retire for the night. Night after night.
It’s the winter trees I love the best. Raw, black and white silhouettes; vulnerable yet strong against the dark of night and the light of day. Maybe that’s because it’s winter now. At present, I love their vulnerability and their strength that represents all that we are at this time of year. We are vulnerable to the cold and yet day after day, we face our days with strength. We stand stall, we carry on.
These are the giant oaks of the The Great North Woods. They are disappearing. We take them down to make way for more open space, more light on the yard, in the home, less work, less maintenance, an easier life. Time, too, takes them down, worn with age and disease, they give up, holding tight to their decaying leaves, scattering their acorns in one last fitful state of desperate reproduction. To save their souls; to bridge this mortal life into eternity. And at times, a singular disparate act of nature comes to take them before their time.
Do you see the tree with the broken limb in the bottom right corner of my window? Do you see the open space that limb used to occupy? What do you see first? The open space or the broken limb? While it’s raw splintered edge seems a garish reminder of the ravage done by Superstorm Sandy, it also speaks to me to never forget. Never forget that it could all be gone by morning. Between the time you retire in the evening until you blink your eyes open at dawn, all you see before you can be torn down by a simple gust of wind. Places and people and things you love can become broken, splintered and torn overnight. The open space reminds me that from destruction, we grow. We have new spaces that were not here before. How shall I treat that broken limb? What shall I do with the open space? The tree needs trimming in order to save the life of the tree is what I’m told. Shall I take it down all together, creating even more open space? Without the brokenness will I remember? Will the openness be enough? What do I need to remember? How it hurts to be broken? Or how good it feels to be open?
Just as I’m beginning to accept the open space, another destructive force of nature comes to break us open again. This time, it’s human nature. This time it’s the children who are broken, splintered and torn. By human nature. Torn from this world in an instant with not a burst of wind but a burst from a gun. Human nature creates the need for human rights. So now, we have the right to own a gun so our human nature can protect our human rights. The nature we have of glorifying war and destruction and protecting our human rights. We forget that our human nature can also be like that of the trees. We can grow into the great wide open, sharing the space with others in the area, creating natural borders while harboring safe respite, providing food, water and shelter for those who need us. How do we protect that right? We have the right to grow up healthy and strong, vulnerable against the sky. Trees are like children. They don’t have guns. They grow into the openness. We can too. An openness that serves the right to protect, an openness that protects the right to not be destroyed.