The Golden Seed Grove Of Lemuria
This is what you get for rattling my e-cage, Heather!
I was thinking - as was forewarned I would - about my tree-teachers and how they've changed my perspective of them and of families as well. What came to mind was how I felt about trees when my mate first introduced me to canoeing and camping a few short years ago.
He was very surprised to find out that the majority of my apprehension lie with being in the forest rather than on the water in the tiny, tippy craft. To me, trees were things that huddled together to obscure the light and to provide cover for carnivores as they snuck up on you. The forest sucked up the sounds of warning before I could hear words such as "Hey, look out! There's a bear behind you!" I was convinced trees conspired to look as much alike as possible in order to obliviate my sense of direction causing me to wander aimlessly till I died of exposure and starvation under some conspiratorial cedar.
Things got even worse the first time I set up the tent and was told I had to take it down again and move it because it was under a "bad tree". He pointed my attention upward to a heavy, pointed hunk of tree limb dangling, dead, several feet above the tent, ready for a strong wind to send it crashing down, skewering us in our defenseless slumber.
All told, I figured out there are about fifteen different ways for trees to kill us - not the least of which is by forest fire. I was NEVER going back. By the end of day two I was so upset - having endured panic attacks, tears, hyperventilation, and the embarrassment of a small tantrum - we headed for home early. Half way back to our starting point a terrible storm blew in unexpectedly. The sky went black and the inky waves started to rock and roll as though the lake itself was scared and looking for a place to hide. I yelled at him to steer us toward the nearest piece of shoreline but he declared that it was exposed to the prevailing wind and that - of all things - it didn't have enough of the trees we needed. Instead, he headed us toward the approaching stormfront, the wind screaming in our ears like the screamtrack of a horror movie (with precisely the same effect), and, with indescribable gratitude, we landed on the targeted island salvation moments before we would have been overtaken.
The small island was comprised almost entirely of giant, serene cedars with a few 'wispy-ragged' Jack pines present. The even and fluid landscape of gentle dips and hills were covered so thickly with needles the wail of the wind, the thudding of our boots, and the sound of our panicked voices were swallowed almost in entirety. The approaching maelstrom had silenced even the never silent Red Squirrels and the gregarious Gray Jays. The relieving silence had the effect of being caressed by the very hand of God. We set up camp snug against one side of a hill where the trees stood branch to branch with barely an opening wide enough to accommodate our four-and-a-half by six-and-a-half foot tent. The branches above wove together a roof for us, and we tied our tent firmly to five of the cedar's trunks. My partner explained to me the fibers of the cedar grew like thick ropes intertwining as they spiraled up to the top of the tree making it by far the strongest tree around. The root system, he said, was so far-reaching, winding, and totally interlocked with the systems of its own family of trees that we were safely sheltered against even a hurricane or a somewhat-nearby tornado if we stayed where we were.
For two stormy days we lay in the arms of our saviors. The storm did indeed prove to be close to hurricane strength, but we weathered it beautifully. When all was calm and it was time to go we left that grove of trees with both reticence and relief. Every shoreline but ours was strewn with debris and uprooted trees.
As odd as it sounds, that experience laid the groundwork for what is becoming my understanding of why families exist and behave the way they do. From my own standpoint, my partner's family is stuck so closely together they can shut out sunlight and warmth in favour of secrecy and silence. Their closeness is forbidding and I'm constantly tripping over their endless root system.
However, in light of information regarding the storms they've weathered at the hands of outsiders and of fate, I see now that, to them, I was a change of weather that needed to be gauged for possible threat. They have survived abandonment, betrayal, poverty, death, and the life-threatening and life-altering illnesses of beloved children. And they are together and they are strong and they are still standing.
In my family, we were cut off from the wide-reaching roots of our extended family and history. Every one of us is a different species of tree regarding the others as competition for time in the sun. With each passing storm, another of us has faltered and fallen, tearing up our roots causing inadvertent but nonetheless considerable damage to those around us.
Paddling those last twenty kilometers home through the aftermath, I marveled at the exposed root systems of the fallen trees. In several systems some very large rocks, and even boulders, were still firmly lodged. It frightened and amazed me, first that any grip could be so strong and second that a grip that fiercely held would still not be enough for a tree standing alone. As my own roots became decayed and dislodged, I pulled up what was left and found a few pebbles, rocks, and boulders of my own, each one a secret, a shame, a regret, a resentment, and an unreasonable expectation. In tearing away, I upended and scarred a few of my family members, and for that I am deeply sorry.
But if I wanted to survive and grow, I needed to move on to the shelter of a stand of other, stronger trees, where I could - and am - slowly putting down roots that are intertwining with their roots, drinking from the same well of nourishing love and friendship and dreams. I may not be the same species of tree as they, but eventually it will come to bear that instead of a new storm, I am an added source of strength.
Whew! Sorry you brought up the tree thing, aren't you? Sorry for going on and on, but stories and insights into families and the outdoors sort of take my attention and my inspiration and refuse to let go. I hope there's enough time in the day for you to read all this 'root rambling'! I'm off to have a late supper and to look over some of the pictures we've taken on our canoe excursions. You're getting' me all nostalgic, Heather!