I’ve found the elm tree. I’m embarrassed to admit that for the 12+ years that we’ve lived here, I’d assumed the trunk one step in front of the brush-line was another sweetgum. In my defense, the trunks do look similar: straight, tall, with rough, gray-brown bark.
But I’d failed to take the time to actually look at the leaves, which would have been a dead giveaway.
As I sit on the deck again, savoring another amazing autumn afternoon, I can’t help but wonder what other simple things I’m missing.
I mean, how many times have I looked at that tree? At the minimum, every single time I’ve looked at the sunset from our home. Most poignantly, the specific memory of sunset on Halloween night three years ago.
* * * * *
Today is the Western Church’s observance of All Soul’s Day. This is the day dedicated to all those who have died, the day in which we specifically ask for God’s mercy for them, that they may ultimately reach heaven, through Christ.
Though it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation, I try to go to Mass on All Soul’s Day. But today I ultimately had to choose between getting the toddler down for a nap or going to church. The kid won.
So as I contemplate the path to heaven, I am enjoying perhaps the nearest thing on earth to it: seventy degrees and sunny, a slight breeze, the quiet clatter of leaves as they fall to earth. I am trying to pay attention to the little things. A tailless anole suns on the air conditioner. A woodpecker quietly pecks at the red maple—how is she so silent? Something—presumably a squirrel—is scampering in the brush.
But this isn’t heaven. Just the suburbs. So there are other little things. I hear airplanes overhead (Dad could tell me what models by the sound alone), the trash pickup, a dog barking down the road. I’ve smacked more gnats and tiny bugs off my arms and laptop than I care to count. I had to pick a caterpillar off of my cup of tea. And earlier, when the wind blew, there was a distinct odor of dog crap. Spoiler: We don’t have a dog.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. But I think it has something to do with being quiet.
* * * * *
Two weekends ago I went “hiking” with my Cub Scout and his Den. We drove 30 minutes to a state park for the occasion. The idea was to look for “signs of life.” And that went just about how you’d expect a hike with roughly ten 8-year-old boys to go, which is to say, loudly. At the end, they could barely name three things indicating animal life. And we definitely did not see any animals. Unless, of course, you count the Cubs themselves.
Yet, here I am with creatures and peace finding me.
Like the light through elm and sweetgum.