Sunday, September 26, 2010

Still Life 365 - Trees

1. When you saw the theme of trees for the month of September, what immediately came to your mind?

Honestly my thought was something along the lines of, "Ooooo, oooo, I have a lot of things to say about trees."

2. What kinds of words do you associate with trees?

Enduring, tough, adaptable

3. Of these words, do you associate any with yourself?

I don't necessarily think of myself as particularly tough or enduring by nature (perhaps by circumstance). I suppose I'm adaptable but, really, who isn't?

4. Have you been an outdoorsy person throughout your life?

In a former life, many years ago, I was an outdoor experiential educator. I spent a lot of time in the woods, teaching kids about biology, ecology, and our relationship with trees and plants. In fact, I built an entire curriculum on traditional medicinal uses and various edible wild plants. Now I spend most of my time indoors staring at a computer screen wondering if I could somehow get back to that former life.

5. How has your relationship with nature changed since your loss(es)?

On the one hand, I feel a certain kinship toward critters and the sorts of indignities they endure, e.g., storm-blown baby birds and squirrels, street trees with their bark scraped off by lawnmowers and car doors. I feel like we're all sort of trapped by fate and just getting by as best we can. On the other hand, I've actually been sort of pissed at a mother goose carelessly letting her 6(!) babies cross a busy road--doesn't she care about them?!

Overall, I feel like reflecting on the great variety of life on this planet and the very peculiar and amazing adaptations plants and animals exhibit is a good way to feel both inspired and humbled.

6. Did you plant a tree or bush in honor of your child?

Since R is actually named after a plant that grows relatively well in our neck of the woods, we've planted several little shrubs in her honor...mostly to good effect. My brother has had multiple fatalities of the same plant. He finally gave up because it was starting to creep him out.

Last year I found a tiny, volunteer red maple growing under the playground equipment we donated in R's honor. At the moment it's still in a temporary home at my Mom's house but I think we'll move it into our yard in the spring. I'm pretty nervous about moving it--what if it doesn't survive?

7. If you have planted a tree for your child, in what ways do you incorporate the tree into your life? If you haven't, what natural images do you associate with your loss? (Do you tend to it? Do you meditate or reflect under it? Do you places flowers by it?)

At the moment I just sort of fret about its safety and survival...sigh. But I have big plans for it.

8. Trees have also been used to represent families. Talk a bit about your own family tree.

I've been thinking a lot about my family tree lately and wondering how many of my foremothers endured babyloss or fertility issues. We don't exactly have a huge family and there are several childless great-aunts in the mix.

I grew up hearing about my great-uncle who died shortly after birth and how my great-grandmother knew he was going to die when she saw an owl outside the kitchen window and how my great-grandfather lied and said that the baby had been baptized so that he could be buried in the family plot. This story is a fairly good illustrative example of some key family characteristics. A tiny part of my brain is also confident that R is in good hands with my superstitious Grandmom and my white-lying Grandpop.

9. What are your feelings now about family trees and exploring your own lineage?

I can't say it's something I'm all that interested in. I like getting information in bits and pieces from various relatives at family gatherings.

10. The rings of trees fascinate me. I remember learning that in hard years, the rings were smaller, or darker than in years of good water. Describe the rings of your tree.

Over the last decade we've been on a 2-year cycle for death and mayhem. During the more mayhemish years I always remember a friend of mine who liked to say, "When it rains, it fuckin' pours." So, I guess we have alternating skinny and fat rings. But I'm hoping for a drought.

Sidenote: There is a spectacular sunrise at the moment and the dog is insisting that we go for a closer look. No time to edit or correct anything...hope I did ok.

Side-sidenote: After letting this sit for a while I realized that I sound like an ignoramus when saying that I'm not interested in learning more about my family tree. Of course I'm interested. I think I mean that I prefer the casual/serendipitous approach rather than the formal research and interviewing. There's nothing quite like finding out that you're related to the Amazing Kreskin at a random family gathering. I'm sure no one in the family would have owned up to this fact if they thought I was recording it.


  1. I think you did really well. I love the story of the Grandmom and Grandpop. Hoping for a drought from mayhem for you.

  2. You did great. Funnily, I was in bed, the windows way up at the top of our room face east, so the sun rises come in and flood the room in pinks, so I know, I skipped writing earlier to just take that gorgeousness in.

    I love reading all these answers and learning more about everyone. I really want to hear more about every one of these answers. Outdoor experiential educator sounds like an incredible job. I have found that my relationship with everything I used to love has changed, and I wonder if it is a protective mechanism, like protecting me from getting my heartbroken again. I envy those women that can immerse themselves obsessively in running. I seem to only be able to immerse myself in activities which require sitting on my ass.

    Also, I really really hope the maple takes. I often see little sapling start near another huge tree, or on the playground and wonder about what hope they have. None? UNless someone saves them and nurtures them. Thanks for joining in the blog circus.