Sunday, December 7, 2014

Life Happens

It was one of those life happens kinda weeks. Yesterday I spent the afternoon at a remembrance for our friend Scott. We celebrated the extraordinary person he was and the exemplary life he led. Scott was diagnosed with cancer in July and a brief four months later, at the young age of 61, he passed into spirit peacefully in his own home on the land he loved in Mendocino County, my homeland, one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the world. Scott was so hale and hearty, lived so cleanly, drinking pure water and breathing clean air, that one would have anticipated that he would live to be a hundred, but one would have been wrong. Life happens in unexpected ways.

Yesterday was also the fourth birthday of my precious goddaughter Stella, a miracle in the form of a brilliant little person if ever there was one. Stella’s mom, Gayla, was nearly 50 years old when Stella was born. Stella is her only child and I never imagined Gayla would choose to embark on motherhood at that age, particularly since her husband is in his 60s and has two grown children. But Gayla is a young 50-something and she and her husband are having a blast raising Stella. Gayla sent me a vid of Stella dancing gaily in her fairy princess costume, singing happily on her birthday. The center of the universe for her well-educated, smart, creative, and adoring older parents, Stella is a remarkable little girl. She almost didn’t come to be, but life happens in astonishing ways.

On Wednesday night this past week, one of the four enormous old oak trees in my half-acre yard fell down. It was a tree that had been suffering from drought for a very long time and had an almost entirely hollow lower trunk. When I looked inside that tree after it fell, I wondered what had been holding it up. The crazy thing about it was that it fell as if placed on the ground gently by a divine hand. It did not fall on my house, my fence, my propane tank, or any of the many fruit trees I have planted in my yard in recent years. It fell carefully between my young almond tree, my young cherry trees, and my most beautiful seasoned dogwood. It fell a few feet short of the fence so that it does not block passage around the yard. It fell so perfectly, so beautifully, that I’m not feeling any urgency to have it cut up. It laid itself down peacefully and died. I will forever connect in my mind the loss of the tree with the loss of Scott. The tree fell exactly one month to the day after Scott passed.

At the event to celebrate Scott, I saw a few mutual friends who attended Akili and Tina’s wedding in September. That was the last time I had seen them, at a joyous and fun life cycle event. My contemporaries, who have gone through thick and thin with me, for better or for worse. Yesterday, I talked to Casey, the niece of Scott’s widow Linda (one of my dearest longtime friends). Casey did a tremendous good deed by coming to the event from Florida with her two-year-old. Oh how Casey’s daughter, that sparkling little sprite, cheered up Linda and us grieving old folks. The last time I saw Casey, she was a little girl herself, playing on the beach in the vast Pacific Northwest with my children on a joint family vacation. Now she is grown, married, and a mom with a child the same age that my Sudi was the last time I saw Casey. Time passes as surely as the ivy climbs the wall.

I have to holler, laugh, howl, cry, and wonder at how life happens. These precious and unique babies born, riding through childhood, dancing in their fairy princess dresses, finding their way in the world, getting married, doing both ordinary and extraordinary things, many of them having babies that they raise to do it all over again. Generation after generation of us, sometimes remembering back and back and back and back to the ancestors, all those who came before; and more often not remembering anything or else remembering so little. Losing so many memories of all those good times had, and also losing memories of hard times better forgotten. All those children born, trees falling, weddings celebrated, dear ones dying always too soon. And it keeps on and on in this way that could be a pattern but could be complete chaos. Who knows? Each time I turn the crystal of life in my hand and look through it I see a different configuration through its many facets.

I can’t keep up. It all goes by too fast. It’s too crazy or difficult or miraculous to grasp. I try, but I spend my whole life trying. There is really no sense to be made from it other than what we fabricate to create meaning, there is only the going through it with sometimes immeasurable delight and sometimes bottomless grief and sometimes of no consequence either way; only the experiencing it. Enjoying the delicious bowl of soup, the transcendent slant of orange golden light at sunset, the embrace, the touch, the fragrance, the laugh, the song, oh just the quiet voice and nothing more even. All of it. So complicated and yet so simple. And here we are. Thrown together. I wake up every morning. A tree is standing and then it’s not. I will take it. I will take it all for as long as it lasts. Life happens. 

I am not a photographer. This is not my tree. It's an image I pulled off the internet 
of a broken oak tree to show how graceful and beautiful a broken oak can be. 
Mine is a beauty too.

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