Tree Moments

The room is filled with soft evening shadows. A backpack rests askew on the rocking chair, carelessly discarded the minute its owner stepped in the door. My honey-colored dog stretches across the back of the couch, her hind leg stretched out as she sniffs at the cool spring air through the window screen. A tuft of white fur straggles across my arm as another dog’s head rests contentedly on my knee.

Peace. Silence settles in the house and is only broken by the ticking of the clock. Windows are open and the neighborhood is so quiet I can hear the distant whish of tires on wet pavement miles away. A dark barks staccato in the distance. A motorcycle whirs down the road. Neighbors arrive home, conversing in muffled tones as they shut car doors. Her tinkling laughter fades with her steps up the sidewalk.

Spring holds the promise of summer, which is my favorite season. Increased warmth and sunshine have always meant more time outdoors. As a kid, I spent nearly half of my summer hanging out in some tree. My favorite one grew at the edge of our yard. A barbed wire fence separated our property from the vast acres of a neighbor, as part of his yard snaked around the woods to meet with ours.

Climbing to the top of my tree involved careful footing along the ridges and branches up to a spot where two parallel branches formed a seat. I would lightly kick my legs to feel the distance below as I scanned the roof of the shed and looked down on the ominous rusted fence. Adults told us it would electrocute you if you touched it–a careful ruse to keep us off the fence and out of the woods. From high up in the tree I could easily count the rows of newly planted evergreen trees that would one day obscure this view, as well as my path to the woods.

In my tree I was alone but not lonely. Was it the presence of God I felt? As the wind rustled the leaves, I would close my eyes and imagine myself in another time, connected to other people who had lived in these houses or even the first people to explore these lands. Perhaps it was a rare moment of peace even then, as I felt far from the responsibility of chores or homework. I was in the moment. Taking in the warm sunshine peaking through the branches. Watching ants scurry around the bark. It was a sense of getting back to something essential.

Stillness is elusive to me. I must contend with the “must”s and the “should”s that cycle through my mind, the peace of relaxation broken by a nagging guilt about various mundane tasks. Busyness carries too high a value. To fill the calendar with appointments and to have an endless to-do list is lauded. Relaxation is something to be earned. As I strive for more peace, I see the need for more stillness. It’s the only way to return to the essential. I want more tree moments.