Written 5/7/12 – I was 23 and living in NYC.
My New York City apartment sits like a large man on the fastfood-yellow subway benches, comfortably planted, going nowhere. The green awning with neatly printed white and bold “203” reaches out toward a small tree on the sidewalk’s gum-stained and crusty path.
I feel oddly poetic today. The soft sprinkle of rain has slowly tapped its way into my being, puddling. It’s as though I should float over to Central Park. Float until the trees force me back to the ground with their sprawling, reaching limbs. I raise my lips to the wetness of rain and whisper thoughts no one has heard before, ideas yet to emerge, songs yet to be writ. Watching through my deep brown ovals heavy with dewed lashes as those whispered words softly cry with the rain, slowly rising like forgotten smoke, swirling up through the branches and out of sight for no one else but me to catch.
I once felt this way as a child—strangely alone in my deepened connection to the unknown. I had a tree of my own. She waited for me to return from school every day and called out to me to sit atop her branches. I did not know double digits in age; yet, I only knew the waxy Crayola scent of the classroom, the raised curb in the school’s lot that I balanced on as the other girls played in closed circles, the poems I hid in my Social Studies notebook, and the stickers I knew the others swapped and shared as I scribbled. I climbed atop my tree with these truths sitting heavy on my heart.
But, she held me as I cried. Held me as I stared out at the weed-ridden corn field, the back woods guarding the stalks in walled defense. As I questioned, as I thought, as I let the worry of 9 years slowly release its grip on me. The leaves softly spoke, hushed assurances through lullabies.
When I was 16, my father cut that tree down. He didn’t know better. I couldn’t be angry. The tree was leaning then. Leaning in toward the barn, intruding on a project I didn’t understand. I laid my hand over the deadened heart beat of her stump. I looked out at the weed-ridden cornfield and the back woods and tried to hear it all once again. It was gone.
But, she came back today. As soon as I stepped out onto 8th Avenue and the first droplets of rain kissed my forehead “hello.” Following me through the subway, my tree’s essence held my hand as I re-emerged onto the street in my unfamiliar neighborhood, gliding from one concreted sapling to the next.
I walked past a Church, the same Church that sat with sterile grace alongside my lazily slumped apartment. I felt a tug at my sleeve toward the stoned steps, pointing through the open hand carved door, heavy with age, at the carpeted aisle leading toward the candle-lit alter.
I stopped for a moment, looking in.
I saw the weed-ridden corn field; the oak and elm trees. I closed my eyes and heard the rushing rustling of wind on leaf and limb.
The worry of 23 years slowly released its grip on me. I raised my lips to the wet rain and allowed them to turn up in an easy smile.