Saturday, April 15, 2017

Planting for a future that isn't mine.

I can't see the simple beauty of dogwoods 
and not be transported back in time 
to my grandparents backyard in New Jersey.

We went to my maternal grandparent's home nearly every Sunday after church for 'dinner'
which was the word my grandmother used for the main meal
in the middle of the day.
(The evening offering was less elaborate,
usually 'get-it-yourself' and was called 'supper'
and we frequently stayed for that meal too.)
There were always bags of 'leftovers' to be taken home
which I now know was extra food my grandparents purchased
to get our family through the week.
The pretense allowed us kids to be oblivious to 'hand-outs' and tough times
while protecting my parents egos as providers.

All I knew at the time was that it was a lot like the loaves and fishes we talked about in Sunday School...
there was always more than enough when it was shared
at Nanny and Pop-pops house.

While my grandparents home may have been modest by today's standards,
it was a child's paradise.
There were places to explore, both inside and out, and, during our time there,
adults were on their best behavior.
The tension and alternating undercurrents of hostility and pervasive sadness between my parents seemed to evaporate.
 Or maybe it was only because of the hiding places in the attic and yard
that I could pretend the feelings that wrapped around me like a heavy blanket at home
had been shrugged off for at least part of a day.

Nanny and Pop-pop owned several acres of undeveloped land behind the house
and separating the manicured lawn and rose gardens from the densest part of the woods
was a border of huge, gorgeous, wild dogwoods...
perfect for climbing.
Within the safety of dogwood branches,
it was possible to be within hearing distance of the house
and yet remain unseen.
Accompanied by a blanket and a book,
I spent hours nestled inside the trees;
lost in reverie and other worlds
while the words of this reality,
if they reached me at all,
were muted and filtered,
seeping through the white and pale pink perfection.
Sporadically my grandfather would call me down from my hiding place
to accompany him on explorations further into the woods.
There was a tiny burbling pool of water deep in the forest
that my grandfather claimed was the head water of the Passaic River.
We would stand there in the silence and listen to birds,
the wind in the trees,
the water bubbling up from the earths depths.

"Even wild untamed things have to start somewhere", he would intone,
"you can never tell just by looking
where something small's gonna go
and what it can become
when it joins forces with all the rest."
He told me the little stream in our backyard would merge
with other rivers from across the state 
and they'd all flow into our beloved Atlantic Ocean
and, ultimately,
we'd be swimming in this same water someday
at our summer house
down at the shore.

Even as a kid,
I loved the idea of our small pool of water
being part of something bigger,
leaving their property in one shape
and being transformed
into something powerful and constant.
To this day, there exists within me two opposing desires:
to remove myself from the fray of 'ordinary' life,
remaining secluded to the point of invisibility,
with information reaching me only after being filtered through beauty
and the other a desire,
even a willingness,
to go deeper into the unknown;
to stand in the dark and listen to the still, small center
as it merges it's tiny efforts into a larger force;
a force with the power to change shorelines and obliterate obstacles,
creating as it does,
a rhythm that seems to be the earths very heartbeat.

6 years ago,
I rescued dogwood 'twigs' from the closeout bucket at Lowe's.
They cost $10.00 each.
 While they've more than doubled in size,
no one will be climbing my small dogwood trees for decades.

Even the 6 foot white ones I bought today
(for 20 times more than I spent so many years ago)
won't be 'climb worthy' within my lifetime.
It's enough to know that long after I'm gone,
some child might find solace within its branches.

We all plant futures that won't be ours.

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