I am home sick with an infection. Looking out the window, I can see the huge wild cherry tree lifting its branches toward the sky on this cold early December day. I allow myself to dissolve into my encounter state. I’m not sure how to explain this except that it is a state of empathy with the other.
I am sensing, to the best of my ability from here on the couch, the feel and smell of damp bark, the sharp persistence of a bird’s beak against the outer shell of the trunk, and the wide expanse of bare branches into branchlets into outer growth. I imagine the flow of sap and water up the tree trunk- slow now, maybe almost dormant, since all the leaves have already fallen. I wonder at what it feels like to be a tree in early winter. like falling into sleep, dozing now, with just a lingering sense of being.
I have read that trees can tell the time, from the light at different seasons, and I wonder if this translates into any sense of winter coming, and hope for spring after that. Does it know, somehow, as its rings tell, that there have been season after season, and will be seasons still? Does it slumber with a sense of hope that there will be Spring?
From my perspective here on the couch I interpret the outspread branches as a yearning for life, an urgency of upward growth, curtailed by the cold and sentenced to wait, for now, til warmer weather returns. I imagine that the tree accepts this state, an acceptance of the need to rest, and as I watch my husband bustle around me I recognize that I must also simply rest for now, doze perhaps, while I wait to be well.
I reflect that I am also often beset with an almost overbearing sense of urgency at all that must be done, a frantic fervor to make the most of my days. But perhaps there is wisdom in accepting that there are times and seasons for rest, and that strength is regenerated in slowing down.
There is wisdom too in practicing patience with hope in the face of hardship- I am thinking now of the task at hand in the world today, to promote the great turning that is necessary in order to prevent a final winter, for ourselves as well as even, perhaps for so many forms of life and for the trees. As Joanna Macy says, we can’t know what the future holds any more, actually, than the tree does. We live on the knife edge of uncertainty, she says, and it is this that moves us from complacency to action.
But first, for the cherry tree outside my window and for me on the couch there is rest, with hope.