Getting Back Up
Her name is Maple. It’s hard to tell exactly how many years she’s been around. I couldn’t even tell you if she’s changed at all since I met her 16 years ago. I’m expecting she’ll outlive me. Well, that’s my plan. Not that we get to plan how or when we leave, but if I have a say in it I want to be sitting under Maple, looking up at her canopy of red and green leaves, tracing her immense branches from craggy trunk to moss covered tips tickling the clouds.
I think about when she was planted—maybe sometime in the late 1950s when this house was built by the Jansen Family. I wonder if Mr. Jansen planted Maple and if his daughter ever climbed up into the branches like my boys have. The invisible history of lives that share a space, decades apart, held in the roots of a majestic tree that I can spot from Little Mountain’s overlook.
Plants are my people, although I am not very skilled at cultivating them in any type of organized or productive way. I like them to grow wild. I like nature’s chaos. Invasive is a word I use to talk about humans, not weeds. I feel most at peace when I am surrounded by untamed wilderness– even if it is only a small strip of it like the Story Time Trail near the Skagit Regional Airport. We walk there often and I always go and visit Hawthorn, another friend of mine. I admire her bright berries and her determination to keep growing, even though it looks like she fell over many years back. She’s more horizontal these days but she is still growing, still sharing her medicine with people.
On a recent walk there we noticed the tall stands of Teasel, some with small purple blooms still clinging onto bristle that fat bumbles climbed on. We tried to remember the name of the bush with snow white berries, and we nibbled ripe blackberries. Even Clover, our beloved dog, ate a few with delight. While I get quieter as I stroll through the greenery, Clover gets more excited. Her nose literally froths at all the smells of rabbits and coyotes and so many other dogs. She runs with abandon and managed to run into me and completely knock me over onto the gravel trail.
My family says I fell in slow motion—my feet swept out from under me, my head landing dangerously close to a chunk of cement. They watched open mouthed, arms reaching out, trying to bend time and space to save someone. In my mind, I fell hard and fast—no time to even brace for the impact. I was vertical, and then I was horizontal. They all rushed to me immediately, to see if I was hurt, if they could help, and to see what I needed.
My dad grew up on a farm in Ohio and doles out advice with his cache of great one liners. One of my favorites is: “Sometimes the best choice is to do nothing.” So that’s what I did—I took a minute. I just lay there to see what hurt. I rolled onto my back and took a breath. I looked up into the canopy of a birch. I stretched out my left leg and then my right. I took another breath. I marveled that I wasn’t hurt, that my back wasn’t in a spasm of stabbing pain. I wasn’t bleeding. My husband offered a hand to pull me up, but I decided to get up on my own. I slowly got to my hands and knees, then straightened my spine—curious if there would be an “ouch” at any point. I stretched my arms up and breathed. I got knocked down, took a second, and got back up covered in tiny rocks, curled leaves, and small twigs.
When I look back at the last six months, it is clear that we all have had our moments of getting knocked down in hundreds of different ways, and we all have tiny bits of our fall still clinging to us. As I write this, I’m not even sure if I am back up yet. Or if I’m still laying there thinking “what just happened?!” What got me started on this whole seemingly unrelated story about trees and dogs and falls, is that Nicole, the editor of this newsletter, encouraged me to write something about what’s going to get us through tough times, and for once I honestly didn’t have one thing to say about that. Odd for me; my super-annoying-super-power is finding a silver lining in every storm cloud. Optimism overdrive. So when I put myself into a timeout last night (because my heart feels heavy sometimes and not knowing what to write about was making me feel even worse), I just kept asking myself what gets me through tough times. Maple welcomed me, like she always does, and I sat in my hammock swing. She didn’t mind that I was sad and quiet. She just swayed me around for a bit just like someone did when you were maybe too young to remember, but you would remember if they could hold you again right now. Their embrace would warm up your whole world. We all have been tiny babes that were held in the arms of someone who loved us and covered us in prayers of safety. They didn’t ask the world to make sure we were always right or that we had an easy life. They just tried to infuse our hearts with all the love they could, so that when we fell we would have a reason to get up again.
That kind of love infusion never goes away. It might be buried under a lot of hurt, but it is there. That is who you are. You are more than a masked face, more than an essential worker, more than a vote, more than an American. You. Are. Love. And when I say you, I mean we. That’s what gets us through this and all the other ten thousand tragedies that have and will knock us off our feet. That’s what fuels us to plant a tree we may never live to see grow past the roof line.
What does that have to do with a grocery store? Plot twist: the Co-op isn’t a grocery store. Sure, you can buy your groceries here, and we know you can buy them elsewhere so we thank you for your loyalty. However, your Co-op is actually a living testament to what a group of folks can accomplish if they work together out of LOVE. In our case, it is love for the abundance of food our planet and her people and her plants provide. That’s why we are all here. So, I have to ask (yes, I am going to end this with an Elton John song from a Disney movie) “Can you feel the love tonight?” And you answer, “It is where we are.” Actually, I’ll end it with Redbone’s 1974 hit “Come and Get Your Love.” Yeah, we have that in bulk.