Here is one of the two baby trees living in my apartment. It is a pseudotsuga menziesii or Douglas Fir (aka Douglas Spruce, Douglas Yew, Oregon Pine). A close friend of mine from Portland asked me a few months ago what I missed most about Oregon. I told him, “my friends, of course!” But secondly, I miss the Land. I miss the indescribable grandeur of the Pacific Northwest’s forests and mountains. And so, weeks later, a care-package arrived, containing the tiniest of possible tales-seeds. So blessed!
I have two trees growing in cups in my apartment, usually resting on the sunny windowsill. The baby trees seem so fragile and delicate, it is hard to believe that they are the giants that make forests. The stem of this baby fir is akin to the thinnest of hairs, and quivers at the slightest breeze or movement in the apartment. Yet Douglas Firs are second only to Giant Sequoias as the world’s largest tree. This now nimble trunk can grow to seven feet in diameter. The holiness of every little life.
In some ways, becoming still, solitary, and silent (and doing very, very little) has provided me with the gift of Attention. Sometimes now I really feel the individual energies around me (instead of storming through my surroundings- occupied with ego and time- as I usual do). Over the last five days, I’ve had a medical complication with the IgG infusion, which boiled down to severe and ongoing headaches, a trip to the ER, and a new temporary regiment of pills to get me through the next week or so. But I don’t want to write about this. Except to say that since it became necessary to remove all forms of stimulation from my daily routine (no internet, cell phone, writing, reading, music, npr, television, audio book, etc.) I’ve noticed a few things about the nature of my mind.
One thing that I’ve observed my mind do is jump immediately out of the present moment to try to preserve, share, and manipulate a piece of it. I’m calling this the compulsion to capture and I’m quite certain that in our age of social media this experience is not unique. I’d rather stay present, though. Even when there is excruciating pain, I sometimes can go to a place where the moment is empty, and dwell there briefly. No matter what games or traps my mind has wandered off and set for me, there is the possibility of just being present. Is this what Zen-masters call kenshō?
But back to these trees. The Douglas Fir definitely does not grow in our southern Florida climate- in fact, it thrives in almost every part of the US except the southern coastal region. The trees’ features are sculpted and nurtured by their environments; for example, in the rugged landscape of the Rocky Mountains, Doug Firs grow stockier and tougher than in the moist and mild mountain ranges along the Pacific Coast, where their sky-scraping relatives grow. Here, these trees will live indoors, and perhaps, with the right care and attention, become bonzais. Or, maybe one day I will go back to the opposite corner of the country and plant them somewhere permanent. But still, get this: my little Douglas Fir- hovering gently in its cup on the kitchen table- has the potential to grow 325 feet tall.
I miss my life in Oregon with an aching so heavy and exact that, were I to venture down its path, I imagine I would collapse completely. A deep and untouchable ache. Was that the same lifetime as this one? How many times do we die in a lifetime? The first Christmas tree was a fir because of its height. The belief was that a new year could coincide with a new perspective, and where better to view the world from? I imagine inhabiting this spot at the tip-top of the tallest fir. Separate and safe from the wilderness. Tickled by the fresh blue-green needles. A vast ocean of forest below. Nothing but sky above. Quiet. Still. Weightless. Empty.