A Tree Down

One the trees came down last night.  It was a huge old birch, standing right behind the goat shed.  It was raining hard last night, but not blowing much.   The tree seemed to just split in half, crashing into a smaller pine and bringing it down with it, but missing the goats.  It missed us too- if it had come at a 25% angle further south, it would have crushed both the goat shed and the car and rammed into the house, including the room we were sleeping in.

It the morning the first thing I was aware of was how much more light there seemed to be coming from the northeast.  And then I saw the tree, a tangled mass of branches and limbs splayed across the hill, a giant slain.   I went out and walked around it, filled with a sense of awe mixed with sadness.  It was so huge, it had been there so long, and then, suddenly, it wasn’t.  My goats arrived curiously on the scene and immediately began stripping leaves; they will be at that for a while, I imagine.  And I thought how the tree’s calamity was the goats’ good fortune, but at the same time, had the immediate understanding that there was nothing either good or bad in any of it.  The tree had fallen.   It had neither aimed to miss us or not to.  It just was, first up, then down, and already the process of decay, ingested by goats or merging into the soil, had begun.

The thought came in to my mind, ‘We are not in control at all.’  This was not in a  sense of panic, but rather a wonder at the understanding, and a sense too, that it was quite o.k. to not be in control, even if we live in a culture that imagines we should be in control all the time, of every thing.

I found myself thinking how many things will change now in our little piece of Earth.  The north wind will blow harder, not blocked by the huge birch.  The smaller trees will be buffeted, perhaps also more at risk of losing limbs or falling.  The other tall birch, now bare and lonely against the sky, might be more vulnerable as well.  More sun will shine on the hill where before there was shade, and this will change what grows there.  The tree will slowly decay and add nitrogen to the ground, and things will grow there, where this tree has fallen.  One thing affects another, but there is no aim and no fault, and there is no grief, since grief would require a loss, and in reality there is no loss, only change; this change for now, and more change to come.

I found myself reminded of the quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn,

“At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient… only the universe rearranging itself.”

So last night the universe, in this tiny part of its existence, rearranged itself in a way that seemed momentous to me, but that, in the eye of the universe, is only one small change in its construction.  Some things have changed, and some will change because of that; more rearrangement.  And I think if I can take nature as my mentor in this, there is a great calm and peace that surrounds my lack of control.


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