must still be carried
It’s not true that the snow colludes with the branch, to give it only what it can bear. The snow will fall at will. Heavy and wet or light and dry. It will do as it does. The tree can only stand and hold what falls. It will take the weight on its branches or it will not. The snow will snap the weak and the brittle. It’s just how it is.
I’m marvelling at the falling snow while I stand here, cold and absorbed in grief. I’m examining the gnarly branches of an old pine deep in our woods. Pine grow big, fast, shedding their old limbs as they reach ever higher. I have to crane my neck just to imagine what her crown must look like. I can only see the underside. Up her skirt, as it were. There are snapped off branches all along her mighty trunk, scars and gashes and diversions on her directional growth. Fast growth, soft wood. Still, she hangs on. The limbs that can bear the wind and the snow and the casings of ice, do. The others simply give way, littering the forest floor with fading life that will bring forth new life once more.
She is teaching me.
Christmas here will not be merry, I won’t even hope for it. Our first in 18 years without our youngest born daughter. Our great love. Our great light. What can I say that is truthful during this season? It is anguish. There, that’s true. Christmas, the most joyous and celebrated time in the year for our family sees us all hanging on to some scrabbled custom or another. There is a tree. It’s not decorated. There is food. It will be eaten. There is a hole. It will not be filled. Ever.
How can it be? It can be because it is. That’s it. Nothing more.
I, like everyone, was certain that I had an agreement with God. Do what you like with me, but never my children. I couldn’t bear it. God knew this, I was sure, and so it was not to be my lot. Other hardships, oh yes. Things that would crumble a mere mortal? Okay, let’s go. But not my children. That was not possible. My spiritual handshake with my Creator. A deal is a deal.
But now here we are. Here we are. People have told us it is so “unfair”. That startles me, that word. Unfair? How does fairness even come into it? Is it more fair if it happens to someone else? We are not special. It’s the wrong word. I get the sentiment, we are good parents and we have a beautiful, loving family. That surely buys us some favour? It doesn’t of course. Maybe that alone is the favour. There is no fairness for any of us. We get what we get and we bear it or we snap.
Mother Pine teaches me. She tells me that while she carries her load, bends and sways at the mercy of the heaving winds, she can still feel the warmth of the sun. She must. Whatever remains of her, too small, fragmented and scraggly must muster what is left and pull double duty for the rest. Everything is harder. Everything demands more. And yet, life insists.
She can still feel the hold of the earth around her roots. Her brethren pulse messages through the webbed universes of soil that feeds her the dust of her ancestors. “Are you still here?” they ask. “I am here.” she replies.
Even as her limbs droop and her needles drop, she notices the claws of raven as he holds onto her. The sounds of the howling coyote pups bounce off her bark. She is vulnerable and she is shelter, still. Still and forever. She is life even as she moves closer to her end every day. She “delights in whatever sunlight remains”.
What else is there to do?
May you all have a blessed, beautiful Christmas season with your beloveds. I send you all love and eternal, unshakable faith in the great beauty of it all.