The Way Trees Dance

I want to tell you something and I’m not sure what to call it. It feels like a poem but I’m fairly sure it isn’t. It’s not a song, either. At least not yet. Let’s call this an account. An account of what the backyard trees showed just now.

The day is overcast and violently windy. The wind throws the coldest pockets of air so it feels cold enough to stay inside and I would do that except that I am in the hot tub, trying to pray.

There is much I should be praying for. How to raise my children well. How to hold on to hope. How on earth friend after friend will carry their luggage.

I am distracted first by the dancing tree two yards over.

This massive evergreen stands 45 feet tall exactly. I know because I’ve stacked 10-foot houses against its trunk in my mind and I get to four and a half. The tree is lumbering from side to side in slow motion. Certainly, it is dancing to some music I don’t hear.

lone evergreen tree on a cloudy day

This is when I remember that yesterday was the Day of Pentecost – a day in the Christian church celebrating the Spirit of God. If this means nothing to you know that it means little to me anymore either, compared to what it used to mean. That Spirit used to cause the hairs on the back of my neck to dance like the needles of this massive evergreen.

I remember that the Holy Spirit is described as wind.

Now I notice the twin trees shooting up above me, from my own yard. These twin aspen-poplar hybrids are mirror-images, cleaved down the middle, constantly reaching skyward both together and apart. If the evergreen is slow dancing, these two are thrashing. Each leaf flickers as one lighter in a sea of arms held high to some passionate ballad.

Where the evergreen is silent and slow, I hear the flickering leaves above. They sound like rain. No, like applause.

So the spirit is moving, maybe. The wind is blowing on both of these trees and how different their responses.

Stayed and steady, not unmoved but grounded. Rocking like a grandfather.

Light and lively. Flickering in and out of focus. Loud as youth.

I think back now to mandatory chapel services I attended in the college where I studied theology – the Spirit splayed on the table for dissection like a fetal pig.

In the front there was always the sea of arms. Raised. Waving. Sometimes shouting. Always singing along.

In the back, along the edges, professors would sway. Some would walk slowly to and fro. Some would be absent from most of these gatherings and – I’m ashamed to admit – I used to judge them for it.

I know so much less than I did back then. I feel lighter for the loss.

All of this is what the trees showed me this afternoon. I won’t say “there are two kinds of trees in the world” because of course there are thousands. Some wave in the wind slow as happy drunks while others grab the karaoke mic and whip their hair back and forth. Most live in between.

I wonder what kind of tree I am.

There is no question who gets to hold these heavy prayers I have brought with me. The evergreen is the tree I trust to carry the weight. I’d build my nest within those burly boughs.

That’s all I wanted to tell you – and that I will keep thinking about what the trees said to me this afternoon. How the wind moves them, according to their kind. How impossible it is for one tree to be another tree. How, of course, none of this is about trees at all.

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