Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can't Trees

I live on the edge of thirty-something acres of forest. This has obvious consequences. There are sometimes snakes in the yard. More often than not, these snakes are venomous. Deer eat the top of my sunflower seedlings. Rabbits eat my mom's lettuce, my dad's Brussels sprouts, and anything else they like. Once, a live possum was found in the dumpster by my mother. It didn't help much when my dad told her that the possum was presumed dead when he threw it in there.
The best thing about living on the edge of a forest is that it provides an unparalleled escape route. No matter what problem I have they can be lost in the forest. I force my way through the blackberry thickets and thorn vines the size of my finger to enter a realm where the measly troubles of the "real world" have no place. In a patch of thirty-year old pines, with the green tinged sunlight coming through the needles above to light the red-gold needles underfoot, everything is wonderful. I could be kidnapped by Indians or caught in a fairy's trap. I could be the only human ever to set foot there. I walk on through more blackberry bushes. The ground becomes swampy. A creek winds its way through the forest. I follow it. I am drawing nearer to the civilization that I fled and the weights that slid away during my sojourn slam back into place. I am returning to the real world when I come to them. Three trees among three thousand, unmistakable and wonderful. The Can't Trees. Two are water oaks, almost twins. Their roots are buried deep in the bank of the creek. They grow across the creek from each other.Years ago, the bank collapsed.Because of this, the trees grow horizontally for about three feet, and then turn upwards at almost a right angle. Then they go up and up. The third tree is a pine. It is not a big tree, or a tall one. It stands beside the path that leads to the creek, just above the culvert. It is easy to walk right past it without noticing what is remarkable about it: the top of the tree is a loop-the-loop.The trees have helped me through some very difficult things (4-H public speaking contests, papers that didn't want to be written, getting up the courage to go to summer camp...) and they are as inspiring now as they were the first time I saw them. I am not easily inspired by other persons. I can convince myself that they are smarter or more talented. The trees are not. They are just trees, working their way up to the sunlight. It is an undeniably clear example of what can be done if one pushes on, even when the very ground falls away and life seems to be going in circles.
I leave the forest and return to the comparatively open spaces of the yard. The sunlight looses its green tint and I no longer walk on a golden carpet. But I am not the same as I was. I am not as troubled, or worried or confused. Because if a tree can grow in a circle, what can't I do?

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