This piece is a continuation of Remembering Sonia 1912-1997. In the end I worked on both of them at the same time. A sense of simultaneously holding celebration and mourning. Being present for all of it!
I invite you to first read the piece about Sonia.
Yesterday I walked over to the park. It was early morning and the air was still cool with a slight breeze. I was about a third of the way across the field when I stopped in my tracks. I stood frozen in shock. What was I looking at?
The trees were gone!
There was just a wide open expanse of arid space with concrete electrical poles sticking up. There were a couple of workers sitting in their small utility vehicles. Another man knelt nearby and seemed to be digging in the ground. As the men started driving in my direction I waved and they came over.
“What happened to the redwoods? Why were they cut down?”
I sensed my anger and despair. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time.
“They’re fixing up the whole area. It’s going to be a lot better.” He told me.
“But the trees! Do you know how long it takes a tree to grow? WHY?”
“I understand” he said
I heard gentleness in his voice.
“Maybe the trees were in the way of the lights.” He added
“That’s not a reason. They’ve been here a long time! And what about the drought? We need trees for shade and coolness!”
“I understand. I’m sorry.” He repeated quietly.
Each time I heard him say these words I felt comforted, a sense of companionship.
“They’re switching the irrigation system to use reclaimed water.” He offered
(“And what took them so long. We’ve been in a drought for years” I said to myself)
“But the trees!” My voice sounding a bit more calm now.
“I understand” he said again.
We wished each other well and continued on our way.
As I walked towards the tree stumps I felt the tears come up.
I touched my sadness,
My longing for our environment to be held with awareness,
Care and loving kindness.
It’s important to cry.
Tears are like a healing balm to the heart and soul.
Some years ago I heard one of my teachers describe mourning as a celebration – and I would add a way of honoring – someone or something we hold dear, close to our hearts, and who is no longer with us.
Today I went back to the park to mourn
To be present.
I stayed for a while,
Took some photographs.
Overhead the sound of electricity crackled and buzzed
As it ran through the high voltage power lines.
In front of me a row of redwood stumps,
Like tomb stones in a cemetery.
I turned away from this now large empty space.
A small grove of redwoods lined the back of the field.
They stood quietly, like sentinels,
Holding the space.
I walked over to one of them, raised my hand to touch its trunk,
Leaned forward, resting my forehead on the rough bark.
Open palms holding this tree.
Closing my eyes I let myself sink into the quiet place.
Felt the strength and resilience of the redwood
Comforting and nourishing my soul.
My feet, like roots going down into the earth.
Voices in the distance.
The sound of wind surrounding me.
I drifted deeper and further out.
The forests with their flowing rivers and creeks,
Water sparkling in the morning sun,
The landscape lush and green.
Our planet thriving.
Amma’s white flower petals gently cascading down on this place,
The fallen redwoods, the ones that now hold me,
This park, surrounding fields and mountains,
California, the country, the globe.
I left the redwoods and continued my walk into a different area of the park, one I had not yet explored.
And there, on the edge of the path to greet me:
Manzanita trees danced playfully with their shadows in the morning light.