But today, just like that, my little slice of urban Eden is gone, cleared right down to barren ground. And all for who knows what—most likely yet another condo project. Something, perhaps, like not seeing the forest for the fees.
How casually we humans trample Nature, squashing life as thoughtlessly as we might step
on a bug with the audacity to get in our way.
I couldn't help thinking about that community of living things, that extended family, spending—what, certainly many decades—competing for air, sunlight and scarce nutrients, and ultimately finding their symbiotic balance. How casually we humans trample Nature, squashing life as thoughtlessly as we might step on a bug with the audacity to get in our way.
As I surveyed the carnage, I kept being drawn to the stumps, those still-living feet of noble oaks, elms and ash. Just days ago, each had stood proud, each with its own personality, unique for its size, shape and perhaps the number and severity of its battle scars. Today, they're reduced to numbers, branded in gaudy green spray paint.
This one—the only one I'd felt compelled to
stand on—and I had shared almost exactly the
I stepped up on number 4 and stood there, imagining myself its missing trunk and branches. I wondered how long this sweet, patient being had stood here…and how long it might have remained, but for the ambitions of a few strangers.
Curious, I knelt down, brushed away the sawdust and elm seeds, and started counting the rings. And that's when my feelings about this one tree suddenly turned from mere empathy to something more.
You see, I'd counted exactly 67 rings, which means this oak was born in 1945—the same year I was. Of all the departed souls from this forest, this one—the only one I'd felt compelled to stand on—and I had shared almost exactly the same lifetime.
|PHOTO: Paul Lupo|
Tears welled up in my eyes as the mystical power of that thought swirled around me. I tried to imagine the acorn splitting, that single, tender root probing down into warm soil, that gangly shoot reaching straight up to catch sun's gaze…just as I may have been taking my first breath, catching my first glimpse of the light of day.
Could either of us possibly have known, at some metaphysical level, that the other had just arrived too? Had we ever laid eyes on each other? Had my parents ever just happened to drive me past this spot where, just a few feet away, my contemporary was also growing up?
I hoped the "rings" of my life...might be noticed
by someone, someday.
Now, I know this tree and I never shared the slightest intentional connection, but what I couldn't—and can't—dismiss is the certainty of how much we did share: the same cool, rainy April mornings; the same sweltering July afternoons; the same crisp October breezes; the same hunkering down through all those long Minnesota winters.
Sadly, ironically, I'd just realized all this common ground with a new friend whose life was over. I headed home wistfully, hoping the "rings" of my life—those varying layers of experience and growth I, too, have accumulated—might be noticed by someone, someday, and be considered as right and worthy as I consider those of oak number 4.
I suspect I'll be contemplating those 67 cryptic rings of life for some time. How many more will grow for me before they must yield to the ambitions of others? How long before, like ripples spreading from a splash, they're absorbed by the vastness of time?