Saturday, October 29, 2011

Exploding trees

The trees are exploding.

We're getting a wet, heavy snowfall, and the broad leaves of our deciduous trees are catching snowflakes as well as they catch photons.

Their vessels are still swollen with sap, carrying nutrients back into the ground, stored in the massive roots of the underground world we fear.

Water starts to expand as it nears its freezing point--that's why ice floats. Still, I've never seen trees explode because of an early frost, so I'll blame the snow.

I stood out in the snow watching my daughter play football. The scene was surreal--several players had dressed up for Hallowe'en, dinosaurs chasing ninjas, Goldilocks chased by a pirate. Some players wore overcoats, a few dressed only in shorts. The snow was blowing sideways.

*CRACK*--a large limb fell from a massive tree just a few feet from me.

Had my brain caught the branch, I would have regretted not finishing a few things, but that's the way it goes. I worked for years in hospitals. Massive trauma, tempered by unconsciousness and ungodly jolts of endorphins, is about as good as it gets for one's final moments.

Now, a few hours later, my numb feet warm again, my skin dry, a few thoughts:
*My daughter turns 29 tomorrow. My son will be 26 in December. Watching her intensity playing football, hearing her laughter across the field, reminds me my biggest job is done.
*Had I been brained, the last thing anyone (I cared about) would have worried about would be an unfinished curriculum being written just to meet the demands of some acronym (QSAC) emanating from Trenton.
*We're finite, focus on what matters.

It continues to snow, I continue to breathe. But I appreciate the reminder.

Photo via Baristanet.


John T. Spencer said...

I used to fear death, because I feared hell (five years in a Baptist church will do that to you). Then I feared the dying process (the pain). Then, I hit a point when I wasn't scared. Not sure exactly when it was. Maybe gradual. Maybe it happened in leaps and bounds.

I'm afraid again. I think I've underestimated the power I have in the lives of Joel, Micah and Brenna. Ultimately, that's the side of death that terrifies me - the notion that they wouldn't be okay. Christy is amazing and resilient. I wouldn't want her to experience that pain. But she would make it.

I have things I want to accomplish - see a game at Wrigley Field, finish novels that are in my head, run a second marathon, learn the art of photography, visit Europe. But I'm not really afraid of not accomplishing those things.

I think my constant sense of mortality (perhaps morbid obsession with it) is why I am sometimes accused of taking things too lightly. I don't stress over the test. I'm not that worried about the data. A visit from the superintendent neither impresses me nor scares me.

However, the sense that death is real is why I don't want to waste a child's time at school - and ultimately that is why I am far more serious than people give me credit for.


doyle said...

Dear John,

It makes a huge difference once the children are grown-up.

Staying aware of death helps keep us alive. I pretend I am aware, then a huge branch falls, and then I'm really aware.

I love your mini-posts here. I was re-reading one of your books this morning, too, so it's been a Spencerian few hours.