Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Passing of the Oak Tree

Last Thursday started as a really good day.  I managed to get all of my household chores out of the way early, brewed up some iced orange and mint green tea, and made a dark chocolate cake with buttercream icing.  I did a bit of writing and then called my mom-in-law to chat for a bit.  Then, a mini-disaster struck.

There was a huge series of crashing and banging noises and, as I approached the front window of my house, I realized what it was.  My neighbor's tree was down, leaning precariously against my oak tree and on the side of a white box truck.  I quickly hung up the phone and dashed outside, cell phone in hand.  The driver of the truck was fine but shook up.  He explained that he had maneuvered his truck towards the curb to allow another vehicle to pass by him and, somehow, the top edge of his truck caught a branch of the tree and it just came down.  "The whole tree came down," he kept saying in disbelief.  It was apparent from the remains of the tree that it had been diseased.  The trunk was hollow for about six feet up from the soil line.   I dialed 9-1-1 and explained the situation.  An officer was on the way.  Then chaos ensued.

Before I knew it, there were cops and township workers everywhere.  Information was taken, from me, my neighbor, her renter and the driver of the truck.  The township crew began clearing the parts of the tree in the street and cutting up what was leaning to leave in big hunks on the sidewalk.  (They only take what falls in the street, by the way.)  One of the police officers there told me that I would have to have my tree taken down, or at least trimmed, because it too was in bad shape.  Before I knew it, there was a tree "executioner" in front of me talking about stress fractures, fungus, township fines, the upcoming Nor'Easter, potential damage and pricey numbers.  I was given a tour of my own tree - the rotting taking place at the soil line, some of its brittle branches, and a shelf-like series of mushrooms at the trunk's base - and an estimate was stuck in my hand.  I felt like the helpless victim being circled by sharks.  A quick call to and yelling from my hubby helped me to gather my wits about me.  "There's nothing wrong with that tree!  No one is touching that tree!" he yelled to me through the receiver.  Just get them all out of here, I kept telling myself as I took the tree guy's number, made sure I got my ID back from the police officer, and high-tailed it back indoors.

Once there, I broke down.  Between the adrenaline and the nerves, I just turned into a shaking crying bunch of jello.  This was the second time I was alone in the house when a tree nearly fell on it.  The first had crushed my backyard and put a few holes in my kitchen roof.  The second one had nearly injured someone and had damaged my own dear oak tree.  With the noise of trees falling replaying in my head and with what was now known and not merely suspected about my own tree, I took action.  I placed a call or two, got a couple well-respected tree service companies lined up, and, with estimates in hand, waited anxiously for my hubby to get home.

It was hard enough on my nature-loving, gardening, tree-hugging village wise woman witchy self to digest the fact that my tree had to come down.  I had spent many a storm over the past year or so worrying, almost to the point of being sick, about nature doing the job itself based on my suspicion of a disease coursing its way through the oak's veins.  Now that concern was doubled by the facts being put in front of me by not one, not two, but three tree guys.  "It's about 50 percent gone.  Sure, a healthy tree can be toppled by a big storm.  Will yours go in the next one?  Maybe, maybe not."  This statement from the last of the three echoed in my head.  As hard as it was on me to take all this in, I now had to get my hubby to take it all in too.  My hubby, Goddess bless him, likes to hold onto things fiercely.  He's very territorial much like his Leo lion.  He marks what's his and won't let it go.  It can be an old tool, an overly-worn threadbare shirt, a beloved toy of our son's, or, yes, a tree.  There was a bit of yelling on both parts and some crying (a usual stress reaction for me) on my part but, alas, we came to terms with the fact that it must come down.

We are now, with the help of some really good almost-family friends, negotiating with a tree service or two.  Whoever offers the best price will have the job.  But, in the meantime, the hubby and I are in planning phase.  As I am working on a goodbye ritual for my dear friend, the oak, and researching small trees that are fast-growing and full of brilliant Autumn foliage, the hubby is contemplating a totem pole from the oak's trunk or a towering redwood tree.  Okay, so we are on different pages a bit over what will happen after the oak is gone but, at least, we have accepted that it must be taken down.  Progress.

And through all of this, there stands my poor white oak.  He is sad.  He knows the end is near.  I hear him sighing heavily (think Treebeard in The Lord of the Rings).  His wounds from where the other tree struck him are an angry red.  I actually wince when I look at them.  They remind me of the skinned knees and elbows I have seen on my son, nephews and nieces over the years.  He seems to be moved a fraction from where he stood before.  Perhaps the other tree gave him a nudge.  Or maybe, the sadness of losing his friend, the pain of his wounds and the nearness of the end are weighing on him a bit.  Who could blame him?  I wouldn't stand as tall either.  I talk to him from the window, soothing his worries and thanking him for his shade and his protection through the years.  I have promised him that I will be there when that first saw starts up and will remain there until the last one powers down, that I will take a piece of him to bury in my garden, and that I will never forget him.  He understands that I will plant another tree where he stands now and is happy about it.  "But," he says, "there will never be another tree like me."

And he is right.  There will never be another tree like my dear white oak.  He has been a constant friend, a skilled healer, a fierce protector, and a majestic guardian.  He is the last of his kind on my block.  All his friends have already moved on.  He knows that his time has come but he is holding on, entrusting me with a peaceful and blessed passing from this world.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Winter's Flow

I have been in a funk lately, unable to put the multitude of thoughts and ideas I have swirling in my head onto paper or screen in a coherent flowing piece of work.  I cannot call it writer's block but just life's happenings throwing down roadblocks between me and the notebook or the computer.  Each time I sit with the intent to write for a while, something else has come up to keep me from my task.  I think I may also have a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  After spending many long hours in my gardens from mid-March to mid-November, many an afternoon on the patio writing on my laptop, and many a morning just watching the birds from my chair in the yard, I think the lack of sunlight and fresh air has placed me in a state of semi-suspended animation.  My thoughts are scattered, I am very forgetful and, by midday, I am ready for a nap.   It is winter, after all, and a very good time to hibernate.  Just ask a bear.  But I need to get myself back on track, get back to feeling like my witchy village wise woman pagan writer self.  But how?

I have been asking this of myself every day for about the past three weeks.  I meditated on what has been going on in my life that would make writing feel so hard for me.  There have been many family issues cropping up since the Summer.  Yes, they have derailed me a bit but never made writing feel like a chore.  Then the holidays came barrelling through, with so much to do and so much time spent on shopping, decorating, cooking and entertaining.   I still managed to bang out a few articles and a blog post or two, through interruptions and all.  But then January arrived and it was time to plan, prepare for, clean for and host my sister's baby shower, which was an absolute hit by the way.  Throw into this mix being a parent of a teenage son, who is striving to be an independent individual adult (think 15 going on 30) but going about it the wrong way and - bang! - I crashed.  I felt physically, mentally and spiritually spent.  I was done, like stick a fork in me done.  I couldn't even muster up an article for my column at The Pagan Household last week.

I delved into the depths of "poor me".  No article.  No significant work done on my book.  No blog posts and so no growing number of blog followers.  No garden in which to retreat to ground and center myself through getting my hands good and dirty.  No abundant flowers and herbs to bring indoors with which to make teas, smudgesticks, and healing brews.  Just the life of a working housewife and mother, keeping the house and the lives of those in it moving from day to day.  Nothing spiritual about it.  Nothing witchy about it.  Nothing worth writing about.  Poor me.  And then it dawned on me.  I am my own worst enemy sometimes.  I was fighting against life happening, against change happening, and I was not going with the flow, the flow of winter.

Retreat, rest, and regenerate.  That is the flow of winter.  Like my plants in the garden, it was time to "die off" to be reborn again in the spring.  It was happening all around me, in nature, in the issues with my son, in the daily workings of home and office, in my spirituality, in my path, and in my writing.  It is the period right before a time of growth and rebirth, a death of sorts.  I was dying in a way to be reborn again.

And who will I be when this process is over and spring returns?  The jury is still out on that one as I have only begun to claw my way back from the depths of winter.  I do know that I am no longer the mother of a middle school-age boy but the mother of a high school-age young man, requiring a whole new set of parenting skills and the occasional "medicinal" shot of whiskey from time to time.  I also know that I am no longer just a mother but teetering on the phase of the crone.  My body knows it, my spirit knows it and my mind is catching up to it.  It's okay though.  My maiden still comes out to play!  After all, we cannot become one without the others.  I also know that I am no longer just a witch who likes gardening but a witch whose gardens are entwined with her practices, with her art, with her healing, with her life.

As far as being a writer, I know this.  I am no longer just a pagan writer.  I am a budding pagan author.  It's there, right there in front of me.  I can feel it, see it rippling in the air in front of me.  But I need to make some changes to a few things before it can really happen.  I need to change me, first and foremost.  I need to let go of fear, for that is what is truly holding me back.  Fear of rejection, fear of not pleasing those who read my work, fear of not being accepted for who and what I am, fear of not being able to write when I sit down to do so, fear that my writing just isn't good enough.  I have to let it all go.  I need to write more often, no matter how many words I put on the paper or on the screen, no matter what the content, no matter who reads it, no matter if anyone reads it at all.

And then are the changes in my writing that, on the outside, might seem mundane but, at their core, are crucial.  I need to change this blog.  I spent the better part of last Friday evening brainstorming ideas about where I should go with the Village Wise Woman blog.  I thought of changing the name but I feel that is who I am, a village wise woman, the Village Wise Woman.  Whatever name change occurs will incorporate that name.  I would like to grow the blog, get more followers, more readers.  I am thinking of ways to do that.  Perhaps guest bloggers, some giveaways of items from some crafty pagans, and having some links to other blogs and sites that I recommend and to the bloggers and writers that I respect and admire.  I am also toying with the idea of a daily post, something short and to the point, like a daily tarot card or a daily guide to pagan gardening to include moon phase, astrological influences, etc.  A blog overhaul is definitely in the works.

(This is where I need the help of my readers.  I would like to hear from you.  From the above ideas, what would you like to see on here?  Leave a comment on this post and let me know your thoughts.)

I am learning to go with the flow again, getting back on my path and moving onward.  I am changing again, becoming someone new while incorporating the old parts of me.  Winter is here only for another six weeks and, soon, I will be born again, as my new fearless witchy mother-crone village wise woman pagan author self.