Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Gifts of Light
Part of the trail Toby and I take has become so overgrown I only know it's there because we've walked it so many times. Bracken ferns tower over my head and wrap me in a soft embrace of fronds and pungent, almost-sweet perfume. Sunlight filters through just enough to illuminate the green, but the wind that keeps me company like another playful puppy doesn't follow me into the thicket.
There's no room for anything else in this space except sound: a soft insect buzz; the gruff gronking conversation of the raven pair who showed up in my sky earlier this summer; Toby crashing through the brush in search of scent. I am cocooned, and very very still.
Walt and I have spent the last few days trimming trees in our yard. Old Douglas firs whose lower branches block light from neighboring planting areas. A newer sequoia, one of the first things we planted when we moved here twenty summers ago, grown far beyond our earlier envisioned boundaries. A red twig dogwood that exploded from a one-gallon clump into a small forest of its own.
I've always been reluctant to remove even a few branches from our trees, unwilling to give up the shield and security they provide. Pruning has always felt so brutal to me. The removal of living parts. Going from lush wild growth to controlled cut angularity. But things have finally reached the point where I recognize that if the trees don't get trimmed, other plants will die from lack of sunlight and overcrowding.
The work itself was pleasant and satisfying, even with sore muscles and the unavoidable scrapes and bruises. The results were surprising. Because we'd been intent on creating light for smaller plants, I hadn't really focused on what else was being opened up. Our view beyond the fence line has been expanded considerably. In the back yard, we can see a neighbor's place clearly at the far side of our field. A place of cute outbuildings and bee boxes and a huge garden. A sight that both soothes and brings smiles.
In the front yard, for the first time ever, we can see the top of our immediate neighbor's house just behind the cedar fence that backs the sequoia. It was that sight that got my attention.
I love our neighbors, but I don't love seeing their house. For a few minutes I wished hard that we could put back a few of the branches we'd worked so hard to chop off. This was exactly why I'd always been so against trimming. And I couldn't even blame Walt because I'd been right there with him.
As I stood staring at the offending housetop, my focus shifted ever so slightly. I saw the rich red trunk of the sequoia fringed with sword ferns at its base. I saw the smoke bush already reaching toward the new light. I saw open ground ready to receive new life. I realized that eventually I'll see only green again, but it will be healthier, more diverse, richer.
Caught in the spell of the prehistoric ferns, a part of me wants to stay right here in this moment forever. No pain. No loss. No fear. Nothing but now. But I get restless, and I haven't heard Toby for a bit, so I move forward into a clearing that is as blue and open as the trail was green and enclosed. Against that brilliant backdrop that opens to forever is a trio of leafless twigs, upon which rest two dragonflies. My old friends of a couple of summers ago, here now reminding me of their message of renewal and insight—the end of illusion and clearer vision into life's realities.
Gifts of light, given as grace, received with gratitude.