The younger parts of me hate God for abandoning them to adults who could not care for tender girls the way they needed. Those same younger parts long for a God who will tell them they are loved in a way they can believe. How does a loving God allow children to suffer?
The present day me sits in this moment at a beautiful desk covered with one of my favorite old floral cotton tablecloths, looking out a huge picture window onto my side yard. I see the smudge and rust of robins shopping for lunch in the dirt. I see junkos, birds in nuns' habits, flocking busily from fir branch to fir branch. I see the bright blue sky flash of a solitary Steller's Jay. The color and the smoke challenge one another.
I see huge old Douglas Firs that welcomed us here with open green bough arms when this place became home over fifteen years ago. I see the Big Leaf Maple that we planted from a wild seedling our first year here, stunningly beautiful in its stark winter nakedness. I see my Emma cat, born here our first summer, beautiful royal tabby and white presence, overseeing her domain. The smoke seems to recede a bit more.
And I see my treasured red oak.
The oak is still very young, not even ten years old yet. She was carefully chosen and purposefully sited and lovingly planted. She marks the seasons for me, never out of leaf. First liquid Eden green, then deeper Oz emerald morphing to ruby slippers in the fall. As winter deepens her red fades to apricot - the exact shade of Toby right now.
A few winters ago we had the worst ice storm this part of the country has seen in years. I got up one morning to find the world encased in glass and the oak half its previous stature. I was sick to think that the ice had broken my beautiful tree. When the ice finally loosed its hold and we were able to go to her, we were shocked at what we found. She was doubled over, bent without breaking. Whole despite the killing blanket of ice.
Walt staked the wounded half up. Every time I was in that part of the yard, I talked to her, stroked her still baby skin, and marveled at her exuberant growth. Over time the bend that separated healthy from hurt disappeared and the tree grew out of our support. Today she stands proud, nearly twenty feet tall, anchoring that corner of the yard.
As I look at my oak now, holding last year's leaves while the sap that will create this year's new growth moves up the trunk, there is no smoke at all. I love her more knowing what she endured and survived. I don't see her wounds. I only see her strength and resilience. And enduring beauty.
This is not a black and white picture. Neither is it unknowable behind a thick screen of smoke. This picture is the bold, blood red and tender, vulnerable green of life that will not be denied.