Trees and humans have much in common. It’s not just about how they grow, or where, but about what shadows they cast. It’s not just about the individual, but about what kind of light they shed and and protect and make shadows of.
They aren’t as silent as they appear. If I stay still I can hear the trees creaking toward spring with a little help from the wind. It’s all connected. How can it be any other way? There is no disconnection, not even after death. We feel loss and sorrow and despair, but the dead do not. I like the way Phillip Pullman describes death in His Dark Materials.
“When you go out of here, all the particles that make you up will loosen and float apart… If you’ve seen people dying, you know what that looks like…they’re part of everything. All the atoms that were them, they’ve gone into the air and the wind and the trees and the earth and all the living things. They’ll never vanish. They’re just part of everything…but you’ll be out in the open, part of everything alive again.”
It reconciles the spiritual and the scientific. It connects.
As I was walking yesterday and smelling the skunk of spring, I stopped to take a few pictures of trees and shadows with my phone and I remembered how it used to be an extension of my body, like another limb. When Kent was sick, the phone was never anywhere I couldn’t reach it. Doctor calls with test results, pharmacy calls with filled prescriptions (or insurance problems), treatment schedules, appointments with specialists… . I needed my phone. After he died, I continued the habit without realizing it. Someone had to point it out. So I practiced. I went to my friend’s house and told her I was going to try and leave the phone in the other room for as long as I could. I sat down, nervously looking over my shoulder at it every few minutes. She finally turned my face toward her and said, “Honey, if that phone rings and it’s Kent, we have bigger problems to worry about than breaking your habits.” Only my sister-friend could have made me smile back then.
I learned to put my phone away. I have turned off the notifications for almost everything because I am coming to love silence.
If we do not bend, we will break.
We must change and adapt in order to live. Just surviving is not enough. There is a beautiful book about this called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (no relation). It’s not a “how to” book for widows; it’s a novel. In the pages of fiction there are great truths about reality. Who are we without stories? It’s a book about the importance of art in our lives. In it, a symphony and acting group travel through a post-apocalyptic world.
“The Symphony has a motto, taken from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, ‘Survival is insufficient.'”
The move between existing because we have to and learning to live again is not an easy path. It will be six years this Thanksgiving since Kent died, and I am still learning how to walk it.