Living and Giving and Living Again

Oxalis on a fallen redwood

There is a line in the book The Overstory by Richard Powers that describes “the curved light sinking through the branches” of the redwood forest in Humboldt country, California. 

And of the “giving trees” that replenish the woods as they die, giving back nutrients so that fungi and moss and bugs and birds and other trees live and in turn give back in that gorgeous and wise cycle. 

 I walked through that redwood forest last April thinking about living and giving and living again as a way of being in my own time on this earth. I couldn’t help but crane my neck back to see the very tops of the soaring redwoods, lifted up with them in the sky, a little dizzy with the height. As I bent my aching neck back down to earth,  I was captured by what the author had noted—“the curved light sinking through branches” onto the fallen redwood right beside me. I had almost walked past it with my eyes to treetops. But its presence reached out to nudge me and an insistent voice said, “Stop.” My husband wandered on ahead. I was left with the quiet companionship of that granted moment.  Just waiting. Just looking. Just being. My chest opened up gently then like a split in a trunk of tree. I took in the truth of what I was seeing. There it was. The small green plants were already springing up, already opening to the sun, already saying yes, already giving thanks to the majestic one that had fallen and died. In that moment I was held tenderly in the embrace of our reality—the giving that can arise naturally when things fall down and the living that can spring forth. With no regrets or rethinking things or resisting what the deeper wisdom of earth knows. 

My body is of this earth. At it’s most elemental level it knows I belong. Even when I die I will belong and will still be part of the cycle of living and giving.

 I’ve already done a lot of both in my life. At 68, I’ve a thick portfolio of experience. I can’t say I’m middle aged anymore.  As I contemplate this rich last expanse of my living, I want to be like this old tree, where I just do what comes naturally, without thinking about how I give, but knowing if I am true to myself, it just happens. No more trying. And when I fall that last time, any greening that arises, arises true. True as tiny green plants in the rays of sun.

Curved light sinks through the branches whispering to me of mysteries I will not uncover just yet, but assuring me—this green, this light, this returning to life.  

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