Just before sunrise Friday, the dying sun begins its rebirth.
I walk to work every day, a true pleasure. I get to notice things other than human, which reminds me that this human thing works when (and maybe only when) placed in this bigger thing called life, which only makes sense (if it can ) in this thing that lets rocks and water and air and love be defined.
Every day I walk past a sycamore tree, a living being critically tied to the light around it. It's gray upon gray these days, and the few live things around to witness the darkness would rather be sleeping now.
I like my sycamore tree-- its shedding bark resembles the edge of a November bay, its intricate branches etching the gray winter sky.
Every fall the sycamore drops its leaves, each one actively pushed off its branch, its link to the tree squeezed by an increasing thick cork choking it off, until, at a particular moment, it breaks free and flutters its way to the ground, witnessed by no one.
This tree has been doing this before my birth, and likely will for many years after my death, as inevitable as the sunrise, and a whole lot more surprising, at least to me when I care to dwell on it.
The last few days of deepening darkness descend on us, all of us, as the last leaves drift down, too heavy to be useful.
And now Newtown.
There has been a whole lot of talk about God in schools, or not, and while it's not my habit to engage the omnipotent, it's also not my custom to grasp the unfathomable. Its not a particularly fruitful exercise. Let the mystery be.
"In God We Trust" is not on coins because of some intimate relationship we have with the mystery. It's there because the North wanted to poke at the South. Can't hurt to have Him on our side.
The "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance, itself an affront to principles espoused by the Good Book itself, were attached in 1954, pushed by Presbyterians under a newly baptized Presbyterian President Eisenhower.
None of this has anything to do with my sycamore tree and the slow fall of a leaf to the ground, where it will break, as we all must, back to the stuff of time.
I am a teacher, surrounded by young folk, and like any decent teacher, any decent human, am not surprised that another teacher or decent human would lay down her life for her students.
Winter falls hard on us, and the last few sycamore trees gently rocking earthward remind me of what once was. I imagine the crumpling bodies of children, and those who fell trying to protect them, when love was not enough, because love can never be enough.
But it's what fuels us, and let's us hold onto what little light remains now, when even leaves are useless, and I pray in a language older than words, hoping the light will return again.
The sycamore tells me it will.
And I trust the sycamore.