Mighty Trees

A mighty tree enters the world slowly.
First a quiet seed,
bursts forth in golden spring
and grows, day by day, inch by inch
until it fills the sky
Branches embracing the sun

When a mighty tree leaves the world
it happens suddenly.
A rapid, crashing moment.
A powerful storm or chainsaw
And a hole is ripped in the sky
You feel the loss, and miss the shade
And very slowly fill the void.

So great souls enter your life
Slowly, moment by moment.
By the sharing of nurturing experience.
And depart just as suddenly
leaving you exposed by their loss.
A sunlit meadow, awaiting spring.

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Of all the adventures I’ve faced in the last year, and in many of the years before that, the most significant one is easy to identify. It started last year, on Valentine’s day, with a dozen carnations given to a dozen girls and with one of those girls keeping more than a flower. As I contemplate the very different place my life is in now, compared to a year ago, I can only scratch my head in wonderment. I’m still me, an aquatic ecologist PhD student somewhat obsessed with wilderness values and mountains living in a Utah/LDS diaspora in glacier-flattened Indiana. But I no longer represent only myself. I have a family, a household, a second head.

Its pretty great.

I haven’t figured out yet how to measure the worth of the consistent companionship. The value of the physical presence of another person every day. How wonderful it is to have a warmth so available, someone to laugh with and cry with, joined together into someone to just be with. Of course, it has come with a lot of adjustments. Like, we bought a house. Meals are somehow way more complicated with two people while also being more abundant. Social engagements are… tricky. We are still learning how to maintain old friendships and build new ones.

All together marriage has been kind of like coming across a huge mountain lake on a beautiful windy day and deciding that your rubber raft should be a sailboat. So you inflate your little boat with a 200 lb weight limit, use your oars to hoist a camping tarp and pick your best friend to climb in the boat. Neither of you know where you are going. Neither of you knows how to sail boats. You do know that you are too heavy for the boat and that the sails aren’t high enough or large enough to provide much power. You don’t know if the boat will fill with water and sink to the bottom of the lake ne’r to be seen again or if you will be attacked by large fish with a Jonah diet or if the wind will suddenly stop and leave you stuck in endless doldrums on an ancient glacier remnant lake. Other people have gone before you, but none of them have gone in this particular boat or with this particular crew. Some have made it, some of them didn’t. In the face of so much uncertainty a lifetime of shared experience may not be enough to tell you all you need to know about that person, much less a few months.

But the wind is strong and the sun scatters warmth so off you go, trusting the other person not to stand and overturn the boat or bail and swim to shore. And because you trust each other you have a lifeline that pulls you from the unmoving mires of uncertainty. You see beyond the watery depths and overloaded sinking boat and the lack of a keel (who knew you needed one of those?) and into the warm brown eyes and smile. This is a voyage worth pursuing, destination unknown but companionship certain. You step into the boat and launch.

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