Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sometimes a falling tree is just a falling tree

Admittedly, I may have been looking for something that wasn’t there when I told a friend what happened to me yesterday morning. At 7:30 I drove Tim out to the road to catch the school bus. The wind had been blowing in gusts all night, and there were a lot of branches and twigs littering the driveway. Then I saw something much bigger than a branch, a limb that looked practically the size of half a tree trunk, that had snapped partway off a tree and was tangled in some branches overhanging the driveway.

Clearly it could fall at any time, and I wondered when it would fall and on whom. So I worried about it for over an hour, and then I went out for a run. Just as I was running toward it, with the wind still gusting, I heard a cracking noise, and I watched as very gradually the limb splintered away from the trunk altogether and tumbled into the driveway, right across my path.

I tried to move it and was surprised to find I actually could shove it most of the way to the side, and then I called my husband, who was just getting ready to leave the house, and told him to bring work gloves when he headed out because he would probably be able to move it the rest of the way to the side of the driveway.

“Doesn’t that sound like a parable of some sort?” I asked my friend when I was done with the story. “How I worried for an hour, and then what I was worried about happened, and it wasn’t that difficult to deal with? Do you think that’s what it means: that the time you waste worrying about something could be better spent just figuring out what to do if it happens?”

“Either that, or if you see a tree that looks like it’s about to fall down, it probably will,” he replied sagely.

He was probably right. It was mere coincidence that the tree fell just as I was approaching it. I’m guilty sometimes of looking for too many meanings. I want the universe to inform me in easy and obvious ways: with parables, with allegories, with metaphors obvious as, well, a tree falling in the forest.

Sometimes, though, lessons get transmitted in just a few words, not in slowly unfolding anecdotes that involve wind gusts and peril. On Monday, the man from the septic system company paid us a visit. Our system needed some routine maintenance done, but he explained to me he couldn’t do it that day because the ice was too thick for what he needed to do.

He said it might be possible on Friday because warmer temperatures were forecasted for the latter half of the week. “Tomorrow is supposed to be really cold, though, before any thawing begins,” I said.

“It doesn’t even matter if tomorrow is cold,” he replied. “The sun will be shining and the days are getting longer, and those two things alone are making the snow melt.”

I know he was just talking about drilling into the septic system. I really do. But I kept repeating his words to myself. “The sun will be shining and the days are getting longer, and therefore the snow will melt.” We’ve had nearly two months now of regular heavy snowstorms, ever since the day after Christmas; hardly anyone has been talking about melting, but here was the septic company technician, reassuring me that winter would soon subside.

It’s been a long, cold, snowy, icy couple of months, and I really hope he’s right. I know he was referring only to ice, literal, hard and cold, and not to anything on a symbolic level. But still I found it comforting and insightful, just as from the falling tree I took the message that it was better to figure out what to do if something happened than worry that it would. The sun is shining; the days are growing longer. Maybe sometimes symbols are too easy to find if you look hard for them. But for whatever reason, both messages helped me. So I won’t stop looking.

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