moving here, I've taken to regarding you every day and at many different moments
during the course of each day. At nightfall, I glance in your direction, mindful
that you are still there, though I've lost sight of you.
Maybe you remind me of where I came from, and the things I was used to.
I shall call you "Quercus," as the encyclopedia identifies you as "Quercus virginianus."
I have known many trees in my life, Quercus, but you are my first live oak. "I think that I shall never see another spreading chestnut tree." The elms have gone, disease their foe. I'm glad "oaks from small acorns grow."
You ARE beautiful, yet, beneath that stately symmetry, I'll wager you're just as focused on staying alive as the rest of us. Of course you are; you're just as busy being, as we are doing.
You know, we humans tend to drive ourselves nuts in the pursuit of a nice niche. In case you're not familiar with the term, Quercus, a niche is a suitable and satisfying place in the scheme of things. You have a niche too, Quercus, but since you're a Dendron, the whole thing spells out differently. In this, you were born with a silver spoon in your stem. For you, it is ordained as follows:
Rooted in the lessons of your ancestral environment, you've been designed to unfold in an orderly fashion utilizing a centered-layered style that takes you (start to finish) from the inside out. You've got an ingredient called cambium, Quercus, which is sort of like a change engine. Without you so much as having to lift a leaf, it takes you where you're supposed to go. You also have a kind of, shall we say, "wisdom." You "know" not to over-extend yourself or branch out too much lest you sap your strength. Your instructions, insofar as fulfilling your genetic legacy is concerned, are basically to "BE."
Don't get me wrong, Quercus, I have the utmost respect and gratitude for the things you tree fellows do for the environment and for life itself, but we are talking basics here; the why and wherefore of existence--yours and mine! Like, just what exactly are we here for? Never thought about it, have you?
As I've said, Quercus, your organic destiny decrees that you do by being (we'll get into all that Photosynthesis stuff some other time, if you don't mind; I'm trying to make another point here). I'm talking now about your essential completeness, which relieves you from the endless complications of awareness, angst, and self-deception, just to name a few foibles of the Homo sapiens, which, by the way, is the term by which my kind is referred to in the encyclopedia.
We are all placed in the great here and now to continue the species; it's virtually all about eggs (or in your case, seeds, but let's not clutter the concept). Eggs, then, are the bottom-line . . . no my leafy Lancelot--not the eggs laid by those fluttering, winged-vertebrate with which you are well familiar, but the ovarian kind that get activated after one of our species is laid.
And you know, Quercus, when all is said and done, you and I are but, "creatures of a day." Okay, your "day" lasts longer than ours . . . you get centuries, while we're handed a mere handful of years, but that is away from the main idea, which is that organic history unfolds in the milieu of the moment, just as it always has. The agenda remains the same, "Bring forth fruit!" The bottom line has changed not one iota, Quercus . . . not one! Just as your agenda hasn't questioned itself from ancient time to now. The name of the game is to keep the game going, going, going, going, going, going, going, going, goi . . . (or in my case, talking talking talking talking . . . .)
Listen, I was walking the beach one night just before darkness descended. Out of the sea lumbered a giant sea turtle, which then slowly made her way to a spot in the sand far from the water. She dug a hole in the sand and laid her eggs. Exhausted, she then, nevertheless, inch by inch, made her way back to the surf and swam away.
Turtles get off easy; they have all that swimming to do but nothing long-term. It lies with us "higher" forms to dream up the notion that it takes a village.
That's cause our brains take so long to develop. And you, my majestic monarch of field and forest . . . YOU need only curl up and contain yourself for a time as that tiny, little nut nestled ever so snug in your wee-woody cup and wait for your acorn agenda to do the rest. Pretty easy, providing, of course, that some squirrel doesn't knock you out of the running while you're still in the quaint little nut mode.
Your destiny it is, Quercus, (barring acts of Mother Nature, Father time, Dame fortune and who ever else is on the committee), to grow in perfect proportion on either side so, that, as you advance in years, you take on a majesty, allowing you to relinquish your superiority of form to no other deciduous contender.
Well, it's been really nice talking to you, Quercus. You're a great listener, but you might loosen up a bit. Now, when my husband comes home from work, I'll be able to tell him that I had a nice conversation with a local who happens to live nearby. You see, he worries about me out here alone all day; says I need to get out more and interact. This should reassure him some, I imagine. Course, he'll want to know a little more about you in passing, which is his way of encouraging more socialization on my part and that sort of thing.
So I'll come up with a character sketch entwined with a little local history to fill the bill. Like, you're an individual whose roots go way back (and probably well under the house) and that you happen to be in the family business of growing nuts. (We had a president twenty years ago about whom one could say the same thing.) I'll conclude with the observation that one detects a certain rigidity of character structure and that probably, in the long run, this new acquaintance will turn out to be a stick in the mud.
Originally written for and appeared in The Courage of our Confusion