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always remember, you are a brave light
Tonight, as I lay moonbathing, my body turned to stone. Freezing and freezing, yet somehow warm.
I was on the loneliest road in America when I went up as high as I possibly could – up and out of the naked grasslands of Nevada, above that land that was just waiting to burn. Up and up through the winding forest of the highest mountain I could find, and up and up through the white ghosts of aspen trees. So I high I went, I climbed up to the edge of life, to tree line, to the elevation nothing dares live above. And do you know what lives up there? Right on the inhospitable edge of existence; where no one dares to linger for the sun and the wind beat you down while the air and the water evade you? In that land there are Giants. The wisest oldest hardiest Giants. Though they are not very large, their immensity is undeniable. They are the oldest trees on the planet – the bristle cone pines – they live for thousands of years. They are wild undulating pine trees, that grow no taller than an elephant; they do not reach upward like most trees (they are already so high up) but instead they spin in the wind, their trunks and limbs twisting and rolling into wild twining circles. They are forever frozen into shapes that my hair makes on the windiest days. They are constantly doing the slowest tree tai chi. These trees have been slowly swirling for thousands of years before Christ even set foot on the earth, some of them have even been thriving since before the pyramids were erected. I laid my hand on the Prometheus tree – the single oldest living thing that has ever been found, although in the greatest tragedy, that tree was cut down by a man. My little hands have now lain upon the oldest stone, and the oldest body on the earth.
I crawled inside the body of a pine and thought about the difference between knowledge and wisdom, one is gained and one is earned. I am just a little mayfly of life on this planet for less than a blink of a blink of a skip of a heartbeat of time, but I would like to taste a sip of wisdom one day.
For a long time I have been asking? What is it that causes trees to die? There are certainly environmental factors that when they are limited would cause a death, but what if there was a tree, that was living always in ideal conditions ~ could it grow on forever? Would something other than man have stopped the Prometheus tree eventually? A cancer, a DNA factor, a loss of will? No one has told me the answer, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it is the thing that keeps the tree alive that will also be its downfall. For what is the difference between a stone and a tree? Between life and existence? In order to live, to be alive, you must always be growing. A tree that does not grow is dead. A stone will morph and change, but to be alive you must always reach up and out and ever improve. A stone may rest in stillness, it can simply exist, it will forever change as well, no doubt, as part of the cosmic mixing of all things, but it takes a great deal of external force to change a stone. A tree will cease to live without a great deal of internal force requiring it to always evolve.
In this way, we must also live, we are no different, it is growth that is the force of life, opposite of the deep stillness of death. We must always keep growing or we will be dead. But growth, it appears, cannot be infinite. Although in watching the bristle cones, there is much to be learned from their strategy of growth: These trees go their own way, they pick the most challenging, harsh, landscape in which to thrive, and in doing this they never have to compete – no other trees dare follow them up there. I have always believed this ~ that always the better road for me. Beyond competition is innovation, to find your niche and thrive in your own particular strangeness.
The bristle cones are always adapting, they do not even try to grow straight, they wind and change, as all things in the world inevitably must. They even let whole parts of themselves die so that new parts can keep growing. They also live very modestly, the use everything that comes their way, nothing is wasted. They make due with the rockiest soil and they are basically always fasting for water. Yet, they grow steady and wild.
It is sometimes hard for me to find older role models in life – but in the bristlecone pines I see a lot of what I would like to become. I will choose the oldest role models I possibly can.
If I had a house, I would write on the roof – I love you – in Christmas lights. I would leave them up all night long.
The Amazon in the night: Deep, is the feeling here. The air is hot, thick, like moving through mud. Spiders are shifting the shadows – the shadows are never still here. Jaguars, with shoulder blades that slice slice back and forth – Prowling – that is how things move in the jungle. Packs of people, wild dog ghosts, moving between the jungle fires. Everything shrouded in trees and smoke. There is constant thunder, the sky has a heartbeat of rythmic lightening. Fireworks are exploding the darkness, people are shooting lighting from their mud huts as they weld jungle machienes in the rain. Eating strange fruits. Sweating. Searching for leaves big enough to wrap my whole body inside. Insects taking tiny bits of my blood back to the trees – paying the jungle tax.
When I was small,
There was a great storm,
A whole tree fell on to my neighbor’s house.
Her insurance company called this
“An Act of God”
Something for which there is no insurance,
There is no protection, no payback,
In its wake.
I thought one day
Back when you were still new
That I would like to give you
But the only thing that came to mind
Was that memory
Of a house crumbling
Beneath a heavy weight.