An offering to the pine

The past two days have been days of realization.

We have a very big test coming up, and I have the next 7 months to study for it. While this seems like more than enough time, the task is large and my career (and everything I’ve put into it for the past year and a half, including my savings account) rests upon its outcome. Starting to focus on this task has been difficult, as the other things on my plate are not leaving. I still have obligations at school and at work. Other people are are affected by the decisions and efforts I put forth…people who are in the same boat as me.

My adviser discussed with me my ability to take some things off of the plate today. I know it has to be done, but it’s hard to let go. I don’t want to let others down, and I want to amass as much experience as I can. But, I know he’s right. I have to finish a research paper (which is akin to a thesis which replaces the proposal and defense with an open and continuous dialogue [which can feel like a continuous proposal and defense at times]) in order to qualify to take the exam (whose date is not movable). This paper takes a lot of time and is included in the school obligations.

I sat outside today to polish off my literature review and refine my methods section. And I was reminded of something else entirely about mid-way. The smell of grass and sun and shade mingling with the sounds of AC units and traffic reminded me of the summers and springs of my childhood. I remembered sitting and playing in the grass, letting the shade grow deeper and darker until the grass looked blue in the twilight. I remember my mother calling from the porch that it was either time for supper (when I was at home) or time to go home (when we were visiting my grandmother).

It made me  nostalgic. It gave me a sense of comfort, a sense of joy. It made me happy. But why was that? Was I running from the work I aimed to do (totally possible – when I’m not doing things a week in advance I am procrastinating with the best of them)? Was I longing for a simplicity that I since lost? I don’t think so.

So I put my work aside and sat in the grass, a grass which was much less uniform and much more diverse when you are out among its blades. There were different types of plants and flowers which from afar all seem a bright green homogeneous blanket of foliage. But from the intimacy afforded by my new proximity, it was revealed that this blanket was really a host of clover, toadstools, butter cups yet to bloom, “yard grass”, and lots of things I couldn’t identify. And it reminded me of the grass I used to play with as a girl. So that’s what I did.

I took a pine cone from the tree near my house and started to decorate it with the leaves and clovers nearby. I plucked a buttercup from a plant that had another to spare and then realized that it wasn’t the most ecologically-conscious thing to do, so I made it the last addition. This started a spiral of thoughts about how connected we all our in our ecosystems, how much the land gives to us, how much we take (either benevolently or by force) and how the ripples of our actions chisel out our futures in the passage of time. For example, the tree near my home gives me shade, which lowers my (sometimes obnoxiously high despite all my efforts) electricity bill, gives me oxygen, and drops the pine cones I use for fall decorations and fires.

And I think of how lovely it is in the world, and how nice it is to have a space to work outside. Which starts to bring me back to my nostalgia. It is then that I realize that my memories of childhood summers and my momma’s voice remind me of a time when I was very happy. While I cherish that happiness (and everyone that aided in the creation of that happiness), I also have happiness now. It’s the sun and grass and world around me that connects the happiness that founded me to the happiness I am currently building, with my own efforts (after having “escaped” a time and mindset of being unhappy).

A happiness I am building…which reminds me again of the work I had temporarily forsaken to reminisce. It reminded me of the present, of which I should be mindful. At the moment, I found myself needing to work but also a blip in a beautiful world, sitting near the tree shadowing my home. When I was “back home”, I used to connect to the trees there, thinking of their age and strength and function. So I connected to this one. I let it be a god in my world.

It is older than I am. It stands stationary, guarding my home, not intentional, but as a byproduct of its life. It waits. It watches the time pass. Day by day, it grows a little. It may stand a good 40-50 feet tall now, but once upon a time it was only a seed from the cone I held. It got there over time. It is patient. And while it probably doesn’t look forward to or anticipate the future in any of the ways I do, that’s a good lesson to learn…to wait.  To grow incrementally. To make strides each day, small as they are, to reach a goal. I wonder, I ask, “Has anyone every prayed to you? Cause I think I might. You have a lot to say.” It doesn’t need to say anything though. Its speech is its standing. It answers my prayers with its sway and its sap and its stance.

I have to know when to get rid of things that aren’t so useful at the moment (like the pine sheds its cones), and then just do a portion of the work, each day, a little at a time (like the pine grows a little each day).

I left my decorated pine cone at the bottom of the tree. I thanked it for its lesson and its shade and beauty. And I left it towering over the hill, looming over the road, peering over my roof, to return to my work. But its roots are near (and likely beneath) the foundation of my apartment. Its branches are over my head, and its teaching is in my heart. Its smell, the piney musk, it’s still on my clothes and feet. It gives and gives, with its leaves and its stance and its metaphors and spirit. So today I tried to give a little bit back; I offered to it that pine cone which it dropped so casually in its efforts to reproduce. But, even in attempting to be generous, I think I still took home more than what I offered.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ekunyi
    Apr 28, 2016 @ 09:35:59

    This was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. ❤


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