[My apologies — this blog post is all over the place, yet it needed to be written. The sweet memory of a few cherry blossom trees demanded it]
I stood in my kitchen, sobbing as I watched out my patio window, the landscapers buzzing down a perfectly good cherry blossom tree. It struck me as incredibly sad, and I could feel the tree sobbing, desperately pleading with them not to take their chainsaws to its limbs, wondering what it had done wrong.
I knew what that tree felt like. I, too, wondered why my life seemed so crazy, buzzing out of control. Why, after reading my writing, one editor called me “brilliant” while a new critique partner ripped through my latest chapters like they were plowing bullets into a target practice dummy. Why I had no idea how to do my taxes, when, if ever, I’d receive unemployment benefits, why I had no clue if I would be splitting my time between a random storage unit and my car in less than two months’ time.
What was it about the chopping of this and two more trees a few meters away, that turned me into a quivering, full-on, snot nose-blowing, weepy mess? A friend I talked to later in the day pointed out it was, perhaps, a culmination of things tipping me over the edge toward a needed catharsis, brought on by the recent death of my beloved cat and the current downward-twisted pandemic economy. I agreed, only to have my friend turn it around on me. He asked me, why is it that I can feel such empathy for a tree when I can’t feel the same way for another human being?
We frequently push each other on the spiritual, existential side of things. Although his epiphany stung, I knew exactly what he meant, considering I feel little grief over the death of people, who I know are still alive in spirit, but who other people believe they have lost forever. My friend advised me to send love and gratitude to the trees, and be thankful that they had graced the courtyard in my condominium complex and provided me with a beautiful view, given squirrels a place to run and play, and birds a place to nest. With regard to people, however, perhaps investigate, through meditation, why a tree can cause me such anguish but losing a person almost never brings me to tears, and how I could be more empathetic towards other humans experiencing pain of this sort.
I thought for a moment before I responded. It could have something to do with the fact I experienced death of a childhood friend at a very young age, and have been in contact with him at various times of my life since, which makes me not fear, and not even feel, human death as final.
This, and my idea that human beings set up their own situations, consciously and unconsciously making choices leading us to situations which are sometimes devastating but are all ultimately of our own making. All the tree was doing was being beautiful — it was in full blossom, perhaps one branch was dead but at least 90% of the tree was flowering. Did I think about the tree as myself, able to be sliced down and mulched into oblivion in less than 15 minutes time? Did it know that somebody loved it? How do I relate this to people in my life that I feel such little empathy for, in my person circle, social media friends, or people in the world as a whole?
So I wondered, did the tree have free will when it was planted? Did it have free will to grow consciously or did it just listen to the seasons with no hand whatsoever in blossoming? The answer is — I have no clue.
My friend also explained — absolutely nothing in the universe happens that is not supposed to happen. This means, the tree was cut down because it was supposed to be cut down. Perhaps it knew this beforehand and put on a spectacular display because it loved me and everybody else who could see it and enjoy its beauty. But perhaps the tree wanted to go be a tree in another universe, only it could not do so while still manifesting here, and so, it bid me and my neighbors farewell. Only, all I could see was how it affected me. How short-sighted of me, eh?
It made me think about my own self manifesting somewhere else, where perhaps I disappeared from somebody else’s universe, to come here and be who I am in this one. It made me wonder, in this world, when I stopped being friends with certain people if they felt like I did today, watching the cherry blossom tree get decimated and leave their lives very suddenly. Perhaps I withdrew my love from them and left their world in the same manner that the tree left mine. And maybe we all do that to some degree, to save ourselves from pain, maybe, or simply because… it was time for a change. After all, we’ve all been “unfriended” in real life, at some point. And it usually hurts.
The ultimate lesson is perhaps that change sometimes hurts as well, and whether we can see why it hurts is up to us to pursue. What am I supposed to learn from this change? How can this make me foster more conscious Love into the universe through my own being? How can I see that the tree’s life and death is merely the beginning of something else I couldn’t understand previously? I realized when I returned home, not only could I now see straight through to some of the other condominiums, they could see straight through into mine. While not great for privacy, perhaps this could foster more community which is normally something I shun because I’m an introvert. Something else I noticed is, it’s way sunnier on my patio. I would be getting a lot more sunlight in the afternoon now that the tree is gone.
So now I also felt guilty, as if the tree’s demise brought about more sunshine. But that’s the thing about change — we can never really see what’s around the corner if we get stuck in the emotion that ties itself to thoughts about the change itself. The best advice I can come up with is to let myself feel sad for the tree (I do actually have a special relationship with trees, and it’s something I’d encourage you all to investigate for yourselves) but also, along with accepting my sadness, accept the change for exactly what it is: a starting point for something new.
And new is scary as hell. Like waking up in a pandemic and not knowing what the hell is gonna happen from here on out. From now on, I will stand in my kitchen and look out at the remaining cherry blossom trees, I will think fondly about the beautiful one now missing. It was, after all, never really mine, or anyone else’s, but its own beautiful self, perhaps presently manifesting as beautiful in somebody else’s universe. Maybe they’re thanking me for sending it off to them with such loving thoughts. And maybe, we could all send each other off with loving thoughts a lot more, since we were all once saplings, we might all be struck down by unseen forces, or maybe, it was the plan all along.
This morning, as I lie in bed, I am awakened by a familiar sound. Could that be a black-capped chickadee, or the robins, or some as-yet-unidentified-by-me bird, chirping from a nearby tree? It is, and more follow. I peek out the window to find, birds are still chirping as they fly by, and downstairs on my patio, Mr. Wobbles awaits his daily peanuts. Nature adapts. So can we.