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.
This is the Year. Dream. Don’t Ignore The Signs. Create Workspace. Focus. Natural. Light. Home Organization. Experience Change. Be Love. Quietly Practice Hoop Peace. Create some space. Get organized. Hoop. Plan. Think organized. Hoop. Jazz. Save Time. Rhythm. Stay organized. Complete the cycle. Hoop. Shine On. You can do it.
And I did it. Well, kinda. 2012 was the year I dreamed. I didn’t ignore the signs. I created workspace by getting a job. I focused on the natural light within me. I experienced change, while quietly practicing hoop peace. I created some space to hoop in. I tried to get organized (again). I tried to think organized (again). I didn’t stay organized (again.) I hooped. I listened to jazz, rhythm (and blues) and tried to save time to be on time but instead found time to be myself. I hooped some more and I really did shine on.
Then the storm hit.
Twenty twelve was the year the world was supposed to end. When Sandy blew into town three days before Halloween, many were spooked enough to think it could be true. I tried to focus on gratefulness and Thanksgiving, which by the time we got our lights on in our area, was quickly approaching. This year, our stories of gratitude would focus on how we made it through the storm. No one we knew lost anything but power. For us, that was enough. Enough to make us step back, take stock. We lost power, so what? Far too many lost everything they had. For everything that was lost, many will step back and say, “we lost our home, so what?” They will give thanks that they have their health, their life, each other. The world did not end. We are grateful to be here. Now we can tell our children, “see? the world did not end, it all works out, don’t worry, you’re safe with me.”
Everything changed. The trees were broken. When we got power back after twelve trying days, so much had shifted. I found myself looking harder and longer out my bedroom window at the trees, wondering what they were saying. After moving through Thanksgiving with a deep gratitude in my heart, I looked back at my vision board. Did the words and images change me? I don’t know. Words and images are the very things that change us, everyday. The images we see, the images we look away from, the words we read, the words we hear, the words we say. We look, we listen and we change.
So much happened in 2012 that catapulted me to the point where the Mayan calendar runs out; the point at which some feared meant we would run out. Of time. Of stability. Of earth’s resources. Of money. Of compassion or understanding. Of love for one another.
Then, the Newtown shootings took place and it began to feel that it WAS all running out. I was running out. My clarity was running out. All that I was trying to hold together just started leaking out, hemorrhaging. I had nothing to say. I could only cry. We had lived in Newtown for 14 years. We moved closer to family 5 years ago. I thought of all the times that I too, sent my child off to school, knowing they were safe, wishing them the very best of days, waiting for their return home. This time, I was unsure if we could hold our children close and say, “see? it all works out, we got through the storm, the world did not end, you’re safe here with me.”
Will they remember what it looked like after the storm? How it felt? Will I remember? It seems I will never forget what the winds of 2012 blew in. Then again, many times we forget. We forget the lives lost, the things that floated away, exploded into the ether, were gone with the wind, the voices that echoed down the halls, and the bullets that richocheted off the walls. Will we remember how cold it felt without power? That there are some that live everyday like that? Will we remember the eerie dark streets night after night? The vacant buildings, the empty supermarket shelves, the abandoned houses? How the trees were broken, splintered and torn? The ten feet high walls of debris on either side of the street that threatened to stay long into 2013, if it ever came?
Will we remember the type of town that Newtown was like? How it felt? Will we preserve our childhood memories in all the quiet serene towns like Newtown? Or will we remember how cold it felt to be without power again? Powerless to keep our children safe. What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere. Will this be something that stays with us long beyond 2013? By the end of 2012, I was beginning to think that maybe the world was going to end. How could we go on? How can this world go on? To those who lost someone, it must feel like the world has come to an end. I didn’t lose a child but I felt so deeply that I did. We all lost children that day. We all lost brave heroes that day. If 2013 comes, which we all know now that it did, can we prove that we remember, that we take away the lesson, expanding compassion, putting down the guns in favor of time, precious time spent together? We are all here now. We got through the storm. The world did not end. Look. Listen. Go. We are naked in the wings.