I have a tree in my front yard. Not such an unusual occurrence, as many folks have one or many trees in their yards. This tree, however is one of, if not the reason, I bought my house. I spend many hours each day looking at my tree, for it has many patterns in its branches and I can see faces and facial expressions in its trunk. At times, it seems that my tree is expressing what the Universe is feeling about a decision I have made or an action I have taken (or more likely have not taken). The branches of my tree come out as if a gentle hand is cradling all of nature’s bounty–the sun, the rain, the snow. It’s as if they are making a bed for anyone who wants to lay within them and, for awhile, become one with their strength, beauty and absolute love. For there, one can contemplate the absolute power and glory of nature!
As you can see, I love my tree. I can not remember ever relating to a tree like this since my childhood. As I stood looking at my tree during this recent “polar vortex,” I watched it become blanketed in snow and I was grateful that the snow might keep it warm from the cold winds that were shaking it and making it tremble. Then I noticed what I had perhaps been pointedly avoiding, my tree had holes in the “v’s” of it’s branches. I thought of all the frigid air rushing in and through my beloved tree and I realized, like a dagger hitting my heart, my tree is dying. I’ve known this in my head for over a year now; but I have lived in that wonderful state of denial, refusing to believe that it would really happen. Yes, there were far less leaves on it last year and yes, branches have to be cut from it so they don’t fall on anyone, however, denial is a strong ally! It struck me that I cannot be in denial forever: my tree is dying, and then the sadness enveloped me.
As I allowed myself to actually feel this sadness, I wondered: Does it hurt? We know that humans and animals often have pain and suffering during the dying process, so do trees and plants share this trait? They are living beings also. Do they feel embarrassed by their shabbiness in the loss of leaves and branches? Do they wish their existence to be cut short as humans do, to save their dignity? If any of these are possible is it humane, or “treemane,” to keep it alive just because I can’t bear to part with it? I can’t bear to think of losing its strength that I can feel even when I sit inside, or its shade that cools me on a hot summer’s day. When I feel so weak that I can no longer fight the good fight, I only have to walk to its side and rest my hand there, and my strength is renewed. So the dilemma remains: Is it “treemane” to keep a tree alive because I cannot let it go? This seems rather selfish to me. I’ve heard other people say “you can not cut it down, it is too cool” or “it’s not hurting anything.” I understand that it is not hurting anything else, but IS IT HURTING?
You see, I believe that everything has its own energy given by the Universe/God/Source. I believe that everything has value and worth and I do my best to honor that value and worth in my daily life. That also means that, for me, everything is equal. Does that mean then that I should, in compassion, euthanize my tree? Or do I allow it to die a “natural death”? An existential question perhaps, but one that I will struggle with long after the air warms and the snow has melted. The “polar vortex” may fade in memory, but my tree, no my tree will be with me always. For it has been written upon my heart, just as the tree from my childhood. I still have no answer to my question, however I am, as I write this, becoming certain that my tree will give me the answer I seek. For just as it seems to “comment” on my decisions, give me cooling shade on hot days and strengthen me when I am weak, it will also guide me as to its own existence.