Mystery in a Tree March 13, 2016Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Journey, The Mystery, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
I set out as soon as the rain stopped, two solid days of drenching rain, to return to my urban forest. What began as purely physical exercise has morphed into something else. My GPS tracker tells me my pace has slowed from a brisk three-plus miles an hour closer to two, more of an amble than a power walk. Power walkers, dog walkers, oblivious runners are all around me but I think they miss the fine details of the place, fail to notice the mystery in the trees. Even people I have seen stop and climb up on the massive root boles of the Grandfather Oak likely never look down to see His face looking up at them. (I name everything around me, transforming the space, making it a personal Eden and I its Adam).
Do they ever notice the tree I call The Sisters, the slender trunk of another species I have yet to identify somehow grafted onto a pine tree? One can tell from the bark that there are clearly two trees here, one symbiotically rooted into the other. I can imagine a seed landing in the interruptions of the bark of the pine and sprouting, roots somehow intertwining with the trunk of the mother tree, providing the water and nourishment for both. This is not something one is going to notice if all of your attention is on the song on your iThing as you pass with the distant stare of the jogger, or if you are primarily paying attention to your dog, pulling it to heel if people or another dog approach, bending to tend to its droppings. One must walk with intent to notice things like this and that has become the nature of my daily exercise, one as much spiritual and psychological and it is simply of the body. Walking slowly allows me to both flex and exercise just enough (I continue to lose weight) while simultaneously my urban forest nourishes my soul just as the pine nourishes its sister tree.
What looks like sweepings or something blown together by the wind suddenly looks mysteriously intentional, a cryptic message left on the sidewalk by some other spirit of the place, human or of some other agency it really doesn’t matter. What matters is seeing it, being slow and open and ready to partake of the magic.
Friday after the rain I had to relearn the childhood skill of navigating what we called “the mushies,” threading the driest path through the flooded park lawn when the sidewalk was the center of a spontaneous pond. Again, it is a matter of slowness and attention, to pick out which of the crooked lines of tree drift washed up on slightly higher ground or grass beneath, and which are just collections floating on the water. I didn’t take a picture then. I was too intent on finding the driest path around the flooded walk, and I did. Where the path was drier and I was free to look up and around, the resurrection fern which had been grey with drought was bright green on all the oak limbs.
I have come to trust this forest as a living thing, believe that the spirits which reside in certain of these trees guide my feet around tripping roots and fire ant piles and this leaves me free to notice the fresh green on the trees in the quiet, dripping space in the hour after two days of rain have ended. There are few other people to distract, and a gaggle of geese foraging in the puddles pays me little attention, continues barely interruptedd by a glance my way, and I feel in their acceptance that I am one with the space, am as much of as in a liminal space between a public park and something deeper and older. It no longer matters to me to go for three and three, at least three miles at a speed of at least three miles an hour. My journey is of a different sort, not a distance crossed but a path into, a crossing of another sort, into that space where the wild creatures do not flee at my approach but accept me as one of their own. It is a journey in which I find gateways in a receding set of arches leading to a space where a particular tree has grown down and enclosed a chapel of branches. The tracks and lamp, the works of man, are not a distraction but simply a high, dry path deeper into mystery.