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the path of sideways trees

karen konrad

     there are two ancient cottonwoods that fell back to earth during one harsh november storm. they fell alongside a path near the southeastern shore of the lake.

     on that day, their world of roots, sky and eternal reaching gave way without invitation or request. there was only the hollow whine of wind and the plea of snapping wood to ease the trees down.

     when i first came upon the barren bones, i remembered a grandmother and grandfather with green branches lifting. i remembered how they stood tall and opened the way toward a field of wild grass and oak. i remembered how their coats marked the turn of each season, how the white silken tufts of seed floated down like snowflakes. and their scent, oh that sweet, pungent scent pealed from every leaf. i remembered the consistency of their footing, so solid and sure.

     now, stripped from memory, the webs of root hung, separated and exposed.

     as i gazed downward, the deep, silent mourning running through me flowed into a prayer of gratitude, for here, before me, lay the cycles of life and death, rising and falling, holding on and letting go... breathing in and breathing out. eventually this ashen bark would crumble and become a womb for new life "in waiting."

     as i walked on, a part of myself stayed behind. how many times have my own roots snapped? how many times have i gripped so tightly only to discover i stood in a place far from home? how many times have i trembled when strong winds blew?

     my journey has been no different than the fallen trees. nothing is fixed. everything is in a continual process of decay and renewal. transformation means holding the elements of life and death at the very same time... for life is a lesson in embracing complements...

     the two cottonwoods still lie side by side near the southeastern shore of the lake. but the broken ghosts of winter have now given way to soft leaves spreading, spreading from branches tender and new. somehow, there was enough root hidden, which continued to give nourishment and support. what once appeared lifeless in the gray of november is now greening with summer's warmth.

     it seems to be those times when one is most unearthed that the most fertile planting occurs. and... it often occurs beyond the realm of one's assumption or prediction.

     like the two ancient cottonwoods, i pray that i, too, am able to live a "sideways" life...

     may i always feel that sacred connectedness even though wild gusts have uprooted me from myself.

     may i always trust the falling.

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Last updated: November 8, 2003