We idle three cars back from where the road worker turns the STOP toward traffic and the SLOW toward the yellow dinosaur juttering up the narrow road on its steel caterpillar tracks. All the workers wear reflective safety orange and should look burly, out-sized, like they do on the village roads. But down here in the hushed ravine, under the soaring forest cathedral, they seem almost inconsequential, furtive even. They know how the tree will fall.
It's just one more tree in a forest jammed so full. I know there are others waiting in its shadow. But this tree is not ready. In fact, there's never been a tree less ready to meet its end. Look at it and tell me otherwise. Look at how it stands there, proud without ego, strong with no effort, a sentinel along a ribbon of road, secured to a rocky stage. Think of how its gnarled and knobby roots reach down into the earth, beyond where our eyes can see, into the soul of the forest, with depth and mass that must rival what we see above.
The backhoe's bucket has been removed. Just a cylindrical metal finger juts from the end of the jointed arm. It rises up toward the prepared tree, makes contact with the wood and taps. Once. Twice. Like it's nothing more than a friendly finger hoping for the tree's attention. That's all it takes.
The first crack of the trunk's base - so big around that three of those men couldn't encircle it with a group hug, if they did that sort of thing - sounds like no more than a chicken bone, snapped in greasy fingers. Then a pause, space just big enough to take and hold a single breath before the King's Mast of a tree rends through a ringed century of growth. Boughs that towered since before these men were born, boughs that offer gentle benediction to the beech, maple and hobble-bush below, topple, whoosh and whoomp down through the arms stretched toward it. The sound never seems as big as it should. The moss and ferns, the deep years of duff, muffle the fall.
An orange, safety vest spins the STOP to SLOW. Another catches my eye as we pass. His lips press together, his face is grim. Like mine. He nods once and I reply.
Friday, July 27, 2012
The montage of my thirty-eight years bullets by like scenery through the window of a bullet train, smeared into a silky ribbon of visions that slips through the grasp of my mind. Even just twelve years ago is too far gone to remember with any truth, it seems. "What did we cook for dinner back then, back on Walnut Avenue in Belmont?" I ask my husband. I can't remember. But neither can he. We shake our heads, laughing at our inability to remember such a simple detail and change the memory question to something more recent, more tangible and solid: "Did my parents bring us this old green couch when we lived on Dorsch Hill or not until we moved to Springfield?" Consensus is shaky and takes a while to form. "It's gone by so fast. It's just a blur almost" we agree.
So maybe you're standing here on the threshold of my house, smirking at me because you've come to grant my wish. Just moments ago, I'd squeezed my eyes shut, let the last line of that awful, annual anthem drift away and puffed out the candles on my cake and thought : "Oh, Time. Please slow down. Please. It's all so good now."
Because suddenly, life is flying by. That's the catch. Once you figure out where to find your joys, the things that fill you with wonder, the love, the friendship, the connections to be discovered around every corner, time starts to go faster. I swear it does, like some kind of quantum mechanics riddle. Once you find the secret to uncovering all the nuggets of beauty, life speeds up. I want to savor it all two times, no fives times, no infinity as long!
And so here you are Time's Messenger, telling me with that smirky smile that you shall grant my wish. For me - no more speeding bullet train. For me - time will become like a butterfly that floats and pauses, meanders and rests. And oh, how I rejoice at this bit of unexpected good news! Until I realize that I can't have it both ways. There can't be both infinite time in this life and infinite moments of beauty, wonder, friendship, love. Those things are precious because of their inevitable end, because of my inevitable end. And yours. And yours. And yes, even yours.
So, Time, I take back my wish. I retract the breath that extinguished the candles on my birthday cake. Fly the way you will. Let the years blur by, the days feel too short. Let there not be enough hours to in the day to wonder over ever bit of Nature. Let me never have enough time to read Nabokov until I fully understand his dizzying prose. Let there never be enough years to hold my husband's hand as we listen to the silence of a black and starry night.
Time - do your thing. Race! And I'll do my best to keep up.