Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Autumn Tree

As a child, I thought that the splash of autumn color was the final death cry of the tree, screaming against the end in red, orange, and yellow defiance. I believed every fall was a little death for each tree, except for the pines, the immortals of their world. I used to hug the trees, bare of their leaves, and whisper comfort to them, telling them it would be all right, that their leaves would come back in the spring.
There was a lot about death I couldn’t perceive then, but even in my misunderstanding, I created rituals designed to comfort the living.
It is in these last weeks before they die that the leaves are able reveal their true selves to men who might otherwise bow too humbly beneath their splendor. Could we stand against the awe and wonder if our world was painted so vibrantly around us every day?
As they die, as their chlorophyll drains, the true skin is revealed and the leaves fill our world with wonder. We honor them as they burst and burn and fall to the ground. We trample the bones of them beneath our feet, reveling in the crisp sound cutting through the air that signifies autumn. We make pyres of their dead, careening into piles, giggling as they crunch beneath our weight. Even in death, we can also find joy.
The pieces of them we crush and scatter underfoot nourish the ground beneath the trunk of their tree. Their bones are meant to be left to mulch and feed their mother, just as our dead are meant to be buried beneath the earth, exposed to the elements, to nourish the world around it. Nature shows us how to live within the pattern of the larger world, but we can’t perceive it from our square cities of cement and asphalt.
We don’t bury our dead unfettered. We bag up the leaves from our yards and take them away from their home. We do it because death isn’t pretty. Because we do not want to see the crisp carcasses decaying before our eyes, as if it taints the image of their beauty.

But all beauty fades. Should that make what remains less beautiful? Is it not beautiful that each tree sees multiple generations of humans come and go, just as we watch a generation of leaves bloom, grow, and die for each year that we are alive? Is there no beauty in death's place in our cycles of life? I stand in wonder, gazing at the mountains around me. I watch as red, yellow, orange, and russet fire meet their end.

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