📝 Leaves

The season of gold has arrived here on the prairies and I treasure it. Yesterday, I stood on the top of a mountain and marvelled at the valleys aglow with yellow and orange. Today, I view gold and red and russet trees framed in my living room windows, a life-sized art gallery. I love autumn.

This month’s Jots & Doodles is a tribute to leaves in all their seasons. I can’t imagine a world without leaves, yet we tend to only really notice them when they first arrive in spring and when they flare their fall farewell. The title poem, “Leaves” came out of an attempt to listen to the leaves, to pay attention to the aural ambience they bring to each day. Doing so made me realize that leaves bring a unique music to our world. I’ll miss them and their song throughout the winter months.

When I was taking biology in high school my teacher-who-was-also-my-uncle taught us how to identify trees by their leaves, bark, seeds or cones. The school was in Oklahoma and the variety of trees there far surpassed the popular, fir, spruce, pine, aspen regulars back home. The prairies where I now live are not exactly known for their trees, but they are everywhere, interspersed between fields and linking us to the mountains not far away. I love knowing the names of things, so I’ve learned to pay attention to all the unique characteristics that enable me to correctly identify a tree. “Family Identity” brings together what I’ve learned through people like my teacher-uncle, and what I continue to learn from Jesus about how my actions and attitudes identify me.

The final Jot in this issue, “The Fall” is a reflection on the deeper realities of autumn and the symbolism and metaphors of death that accompany this season. The closing question of the poem is one I continue to wrestle with as more and more of what I see and hear around me feels and looks like death-in-progress. Yet Jesus calls me to an abundant life with eternal promises. Living in that dichotomy is what keeps me returning to his words of hope and salvation and strength.

I’m grateful for autumn, for the blaze of colour that spreads across the land for a brief period each year. I’m still treasuring the mountain top views from yesterday’s hike. I will never not love autumn, but I will also never not continue to learn from this transitional season of death and decay.

Jots & Doodles Vol. 1 Issue 9 can be found here, or by going to the Jots & Doodles page in the menu.

☕️ Destruction & Restoration: rethinking change

A Saturday Caesura

We (as in the friend-who-owns-a-backhoe), took out all the trees, dead and otherwise, from our backyard. This was a Hard Thing for me. The day before the Hoe of Destruction arrived, I wandered through the yard, noticing, touching, remembering…crying. Although I had already relocated my perennials and Justin’s lilies, most of what existed in the back yard was never planted by me, and I loved all these wild and wonderful green growing friends. They were so beautiful and so welcome, even as they always seemed to welcome me.

They are all gone now.

I know we needed to deal with the dead and dying trees, but I wasn’t prepared for losing everything else, too. So…I’ve been grieving this week.

But I’ve also been discovering.

I discovered shady hideaway places for the ferns. They seem to be enjoying their new homes beneath the remaining willows and tucked at the feet of a small copse of trees in the front yard. I enjoy the lacy sweep of their fronds uncurling in among the grasses and wild roses and honeysuckle. I envision more woodland shade-lovers adding texture and colour beneath these still standing, living trees.

I’ve also discovered the western sky. With no trees in the foreground, I can now watch sunsets from my deck or bedroom window rather than having to scuttle out to open spaces in the marsh to catch the full effect of the evening glow-show. I love the prairie sky as much as I love trees, so it’s felt like a fair-trade deal to exchange one for the other.

The yard itself is still a mild mess, but a Tractor of Restoration with tools like rototillers and harrows will do its thing and eventually there will be green grass and a new garden spot, which I am already “garden-scaping” in my mind. It’ll have space for the veggies I love to grow, but also nooks and crannies and islands where perennials can flash their colours and re-texturize the backyard view. We’ll re-instate the fire-pit (a necessity), add a clothesline (my wish) and an archery range (his wish) and some gravel by the sheds because it’s the practical thing to do.

I’m still adjusting, but I’m also realizing that a bare patch of ground is an invitation to possibility. Like many of us, I’m often most comfortable with what is. Even when what is isn’t really working all that well, it’s hard to accept that what could be might hold promise even though it requires change.

So, here’s me learning (once again) to let go of something I held dear and finding ways to embrace and appreciate change.

Juxtaposition

It’s Saturday morning and laundry load #2 spins while I enjoy a tea latte and rays of sun. More chores require my attention, but they are content to wait, to allow this day to unfold purposefully and leisurely.

I scroll through some pictures on my phone, thinking that it is time to delete a few.

And this one stops me.

Not because it is particularly unique or stunning – it’s just a little hillside path from a brief bike-hike a few weekends ago. At the time what caught my eye was the contrast between angled green foreground and horizontal purple background.

What stops me today, however, is the unintended focal point of the composition, the juxtaposition of two trees – one dead, one alive. One black etching on a background of green. One skeleton on a hillside of life.

And then I realize that this unassuming snapshot is actually a perfect visual metaphor for living with loss. The grief doesn’t go away. It is always part of the picture somewhere.

But only a part.

The rest of the picture teems with life that keeps reaching for light and anchoring in steep rocky soil and waving and whispering in even the slightest breeze.

Just because death exists doesn’t mean that life stops.

And because life continues, sometimes we forget to acknowledge that for many there is a resident grief-tree. A photobomber of life moments.

But maybe, just maybe, the presence of grief makes all the green-ness of life that much more meaningful and rich and appreciated.

By grace alone.