The Frailest Thing recently wrote about the passing of a 3,000 year old tree miles from my parent’s house. While I was saddened at this loss of a tree I never got to see, I was struck by what he wrote:
America is not a land of ruins that might engrave in our imagination a feeling for the depth of history. There is very little by which we might take the measure of our lives, and less still that might suggest to us the ephemeral nature of the days with which we have been gifted and to discourage us from adopting the pretensions of presumed timelessness.
Living in the land of strip malls, and brand new construction popping up faster than we can sneeze can give us a sense that this here is all there is, ever was, and will ever be. It’s easy in such an environment to not be mindful, and to spend our whole lives waiting as if we have all the time in the world.
To be fair, we’re raised waiting. From preschool through college, we are in a state of perpetual motion not from our own selves as much as from the way the stream is flowing on our birch-like selves. From the single digits until our twenties [and often beyond] we are in a state of waiting for the next grade level, college acceptance, graduation, and then we step off the automatic forces that propel us forward to fill our days with jobs, children, and social engagements. So often we hate our jobs, or the state of our relationships or those we socialize with for the sake of weekends to fill, for things to wait for, and I can only assume we do these things and go along despite our voiced disgust because we think we’re treading water waiting for the next current to take us along to something bigger and better except now? The law of physics become your responsibility and an object in motion stays in motion and objects at rest, stays, well at rest. And while with children you can feel constantly in motion, its an illusion, it’s they who are moving, you are bearing witness from their shore.
I see family members not on speaking terms for petty grievances, people unhappy at where they live, or who they socialize with and the truth is we’re all waiting for that aha moment when things will magically improve, except, these are futile motions. Nothing will change unless we change it lest we wake up two decades hence in the same place we are now; and how sad to wait your life away.
I can’t expect relationships to bloom in gravel, for empty careers to fulfill my soul, and for change to any dissatisfaction I may have to magically self-resolve. Looking at that tree puts my own life in sharp relief, and I realize I’m going to blink in the span that tree grew a branch, and it’s over. This is one of the guiding principles of my life, it’s the reason I took a leap to leave work to raise my son and work on my writing, it’s the reason my social calendar is slimmer than many. It’s because this here is all there is and all that matters and its a shame to wait for joy or resolution or meaning where you can’t find it instead of seizing it for myself, or trying to, anyways. The tree is a reminder to be present. It’s a reminder that life is incredibly short, shorter than I can fathom. And while it’s a blessing to be alive its a goddamn miracle to be living- so few of us really are.
There’s a lot of things that can kill a man. There’s a lot of ways to die. Yet some are already dead and walk beside me- Ray Lamontagne