With the changing of the seasons, I’m beginning to focus on the ephemeral. I love this time of year. The heat goes away and I get to enjoy things outside for more than a couple hours in the early morning.
But I’m exhausted, burned out. The art has been draining and exhilarating. Life has just been draining.
Life is short. Leaves are very short. I’ve barely gotten outside and they’re on the ground. I’ve discovered through my collection of macro photos from this project, and cutting back the invading kudzu vine, that we have sassafras, birch, white and red oak, red maple, and, I think a rare tree I’m trying to identify for certain! I’m barely getting to know they’re there and they’ll be hidden again for 6 months. When one considers the events of the last 6 months, I wonder where we’ll be? Life is short. Leaves are shorter.
Tree trunks last years. Some a human lifetime, others much more than a lifetime. Rocks are the earth’s memory. Ours are so small in comparison. I wonder if we carry all the memories of the rock parts within us? Like all memories, they erode and fade with time. I have spent most of the last decade walking the rocky trails of memory, both my own and those of others born on a granite face, hardscrabble. Trails of loss and grief and loneliness sometimes leaving no mark, other times blasted into a permanent scar whose damage could not be be repaired. Earth’s bones so near the surface, laid bare in that place.
I’m inclined to step back from the long memory of stone. There is only one bare rock on this property. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s quartz and metamorphosed granite, but it is crumbling into sand. A pine tree root twists through its cracks and water sits in its sponge-like gaps of flat and wide cells, like fresh cut slate. The tree’s root extends below the trunk like a muscular thigh. The rock is disintegrating, it’s history transforming from Cambrian to end up sand in a creek bed, transformed beyond archaeology.
Transformation is a good theme. Seasonal transformation is a cliché, too easy to chase and too quick to absorb. I’m watching this property transform from orchard to forest. This was once a place of mainly farms, and I love to ask questions about a place. I wasn’t prepared for the answers. Sitting on a neighbour’s porch, I was told some troubling stories, ones I’m reluctant to share. I don’t know if any of them are true, but there are true stories like it and I wonder. It has made it hard for me to connect to this place for a long time, especially with the political tone dominating here.
History and memory are sometimes like the root of an invasive weed, tangled deep around the trees on which it is a parasite, a carpet of detritus that must be cleared out. Desire will not be enough. It takes tremendous work and energy. You begin to believe the vine is holding up the tree and it takes courage to cut it away, not knowing if the entire thing will come crashing down. Things are never as they should be. Don’t people eventually do the right thing? I was laughed at for a comment like that recently. An idealist is just a fool these days.
Pines and birch and tulip trees tower over oak and maple saplings. The mushroom superhighway at once a network of life and internet. In pulling the invasive kudzu that has strangled this place for so long, the forest and garden are sharing secrets I almost missed. The forest is reclaiming this place and the young forest that replaced the disturbed land is fighting to dominate as the saplings of the next phase of mature growth begins on the forest floor. Birth and rebirth. The vines and brambles resist and, at times, I’m uncertain if the tiny hardwoods can overcome. Some will, some won’t. That’s the nature of things.
So here I am in this transformative place, learning to love where I am, share it with the best person in the world, present in, not what should be, but, what is.