Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reading Leaves

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Will Rogers

The tree outside my front room is changing. The tender leaves of summer are giving way to duller shades of green while those well-past their prime have morphed into various hues of orange, gold, and brown.

Every now and then a falling leaf catches my eye. I look up to see if the momentary flit is that of a bird or a bug, but more often than not, it’s the drop of a leaf that’s lost its cling and taken one last adventure, flying off on some autumnal fling.

I chanced to ask the tree what she thought about fall and she smilingly replied, “It is only in letting go that I am able now to grow.”

I had always assumed a significant level of wisdom resided in trees (wooden you know it). They grow slowly for the most part; they have no axe to grind. Like dogs, they bark (but ever so quietly); although many are Branch Managers, they’re humble and seldom bossy; they seem to be introverts who know well enough to leaf one another alone with their thoughts. It’s no wonder I like and appreciate trees.

Since the Maple was kind enough to answer my initial query, I wondered if she wood mind carrying on a brief conversation, as I am always eager to tap into all the wisdom this world has to offer, and this was a tree-mendous opportunity standing right here in front of me.

Although I can be a blockhead at times, I knew better than to beat around the bush, for I figured Ms. Maple might bore easily, so I went out on a limb and dared ask her about her take on the Meaning of Life.

She sighed (or maybe it was the wind blowing gently through her boughs), “Life is.”

“Life is what?” I pressed, like a plywood manufacturer.

There was a great pause, and she simply repeated, “Life is.” Her voice was soft and gentle, although a bit raspy, like the voice of a smoker. Perhaps this Maple has some Ash in her genes, I thought.

I didn’t want to push my luck regarding this investigation; if she was satisfied to tell me twice that the Meaning of Life is simply “Life Is,” then I should be satisfied and move on. Perhaps there was another way I could put my question that wouldn’t make me look like such a sap barking up her trunk. Maybe I could get to the root of the matter another way.

“Last month,” I continued, “my wife and I removed a ton of ivy from some of the trees out back. We were concerned the vines might do them harm. Do you worry about things like that?”

The Maple stood by silently, perhaps deep in thought, perhaps knot. I couldn’t tell, but after a few moments she sighed and replied, “Ivy lives. Why worry? Life is.”

I considered her words and knew instinctively that she was right. The ivy has as much right to live as the Maple. Yes, we may prefer the tree to the vine, but we are human and not divine. Even if the tree should choke and die, it will continue to live, returning its substance to the earth, and from the earth on to the vines, mosses, fungi, worms, and such what-not.

I thanked the tree for her time. I was amazed by how much wisdom was encapsulated in those two simple words, “Life Is.”

It certainly is. I’ve always appreciated nature, and especially what she has to teach the rest of us mere mortals. We like to think we’re so smart, and yet it seems our best thinking gets us into the worst messes imaginable.

Nature is humble. Yes, each creature (whether mineral, vegetable, or other life-form) strives to survive, but ego never gets in the way. The cat that misses catching the mouse doesn’t berate itself for being slow or stupid; it simply looks around for another chance at a meal.

Perhaps humanity would be well-served to ratchet down its delusions of grandeur and the monstrosities of its dog-eat-dog cannibalistic ego run-amuck.

It shouldn’t take a 2x4 alongside the head to figure out that “Life Is” really is enough for all of us here in this, our valley. 

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