Today I did the unthinkable. I invited a man to my tree. This was not a romantic encounter; the man was in his mid-20s chasing a toddler in a pink dress with crinoline and boy of three running into the quad, too close (from my vantage point) to the parked cars. Take them under the tree, I said, It’s magical.
Can we? he asked, and I said, of course, and he ushered them down the slight hill, lifted one of the boughs and the trio ducked under. Fearing that he might think me a stalker, or middle-aged divorcee eager for any liaison, I passed the tree and strode to the library, my rented copy of Forrest Gump in hand.
Until the moment I saw the man and his children, I was selfish with my tree. I had no intention of inviting anyone, least of all “a stranger.” My son has climbed with me, and others know about it, thanks to this blog and my daily five minutes. But to point someone to the tree? Unthinkable. To share this experience seemed contrary to my work at concealment and camouflaged wardrobe. My discreet entries and exits did not invite others. I was concerned with my own soul in the midst of chaos. The souls of others? That was their business.
When I was a eight, my grandmother lived in a 100 year old white frame house with tall slender windows and wavy glass. Through these windows grew an enormous magnolia with thick dark leaves and leather underbellies. In the summer, the massive flowers drew me face forward into the petals. Below, the yard was an urban wonderland with bricked paths overgrown with moss and sheds with crocks in the corners, with dirt floors and wooden doors hanging on rusted hinges.
The magnolia tree rose above roof level and I’d climb to a particular comfort spot and watch my aunt’s feral cat colony creep about below. I recalled the tale of a woman relative who slit her throat while cutting flowers. The dexterity required for such a feat sent my imagination soaring as I pictured her heartsick, or clumsy, or tripping with shears open. The mystery of a slender woman (of course she was slender) with a bloodied throat and white cotton gown lying on the grass was an image I never tired of exploring. The magnolia was my tree. My place to explore the world of imagination. My safe, soulful place.
Now, I have a new tree. Inviting the children and their father to the weeping beech tree was my soul at work. I did not make a conscious choice. My soul invited the children. I was a but a bystander.
The children appeared. The glorious tree in full spring concealment stood a few paces away. They would have passed it. The father did not see it. But my soul, that found solace in a magnolia and now a weeping beech, opened itself to the children. Go to the tree, I said. It’s magical.