There is a twisted bough fallen heavily from the lemon scented gum at the back of my property, it is large and arrived to the ground still full of life. It completely severed from the trunk. When it first fell, if you rubbed the still green leaves together you get a whiff of the essence of the tree. Now the leaves are beginning turning brown and crisping up in the late afternoon sun of early autumn. It probably fell due to the lack of rain. Many on the land call these conditions ‘widow makers‘, because the weight of such a fall can indeed kill someone being near when the branch falls. I am mesmerised by this twisted limb, it has now shed its bark revealing a smooth salmon pink layer. Many new creatures are finding their home where bigger birds once lived, smaller ones are happily finding food and nesting material. Spiders and bugs are considering residency. Transformation is well underway. The morning symphony includes the cabasa rustle of a lizard who prefers to remain camouflaged. There is the staccato of the miner birds and the incessant squawking of the galahs overhead who don’t make it to ground as there is nothing in my garden worthy of their attendance. The tree and her fallen bough are enough spiritual direction for me right now.
This is coexistence – one life dead on the ground and another being repurposed and recycled. There is more than one life being lived and dying at any one time. It is a relentless waxing and waning. The process of growing up, growing older, there is no such thing as stasis and to try and hold still is to be working against all of creation. You might be able to get a moment of rest and silence but eventually a limb will fall, a new niggle will unlock another part of yourself demanding attention. Maybe it is an injury, an illness that arrives, some bad news, some good news, reading an idea, getting a smile from a stranger … whatever the it is … we are in a constant state of movement. Those who try to hang on to what ever they think it is that is the same, ache and hurt and spend inordinate about of time trying to keep things static. It isn’t possible. Being able to flow, not go with the flow, just flow (or how it is referred to in improv as playing yes let’s) is an antidote to fundamentalism and tribalism. At a personal level it is easy for routine and discipline to be an excuse to not make changes, but if we are truly faithful to a discipline change happens and perhaps a bough falls and brings us crashing to the ground as result of a discipline, as much as the result of a natural disaster.
The widow making fallen branch is identified while still attached to the tree by the experienced arborist. Those who know how to listen and read the gum trees can take their chain saw, or provide advice on which paths to avoid, they are the doctors and prophets. Equally there are the seers who point out what might be lying in wake to cause us harm or perhaps help us determine where not to go, but if we are not listening or perhaps only occasionally visitors in those terrains, we may miss the expert advice or worse still, not have an expert on hand to point out what they know to the novice in the landscape. I find myself traversing many new lands and am relying heavily on those who can read signs I don’t even know are there, and can provide guidance to where to put my foot to cause me no harm.
I have had enough of being caught under a falling bough, despite my fidelity and discipline. I have had an abundance of losses at so many levels, the grief-o-meter has gone off the scale more than once these past 18 months. So now I am looking under the branch and through the rustling leaves to see what new treasures might be hidden there. What lessons are lurking in the shadows still playing with me in the golden dawn light and rosy glows of the afternoon? In this season of light, sparks will fly.
This is the last poem Osip Madelstam wrote before he was sent off to a camp by Stalin where he died soon afterwards.
And I Was Alive
And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
Myself I stood in the storm of the bird–cherry tree.
It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self–shattering
And it was all aimed at me.
What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
What is being? What is truth?
Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
All hover and hammer,
Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.
It is now. It is not.
(May 4, 1937)