When I found our little house I knew it was the place where I could have a small garden and where the kids could play outside. It was the perfect size with a vaulted ceiling in the living room, plenty of natural light and I had wood floors put in to replace the pistachio green carpet it came with. The more I could see the outdoors the better so I put sheer white curtains across the sliding glass doors in the living room and often put a bed sheet outside on the grass with books for the kids to read. My son, who was three at the time, made a mud hole in the yard where he could float his boats and other toys, and where pirates attacked and dinosaurs sank beneath the murky water. With time the hole got bigger and so did his adventures.
Our little house sits with a group of houses in a cul-de-sac. In the center there is a circular island where once stood a big tree, two smaller trees and a few bushes. This became the play island for all of the neighborhood children and where we once put a big teepee. The island was where the neighborhood bunny rabbit hung out, where momma duck made her nest and where birds perched high in the trees to sing in the mornings and afternoons. This was wonderful to me and I often stood out on my driveway just listening to the conversations, arguments and romantic callings from such small creatures.
Once a year, the big tree would shed its leaves and blanket the entire street. To some this was a hassle because the leaves would have to be raked, but for the most part it was just a yearly marking of time. The leaves fell just at the start of summer as if she (the tree) was getting ready for the incoming hot months by shedding off all of her clothes. Soon enough her fresh set of summer leaves would grow in and the birds could once again camouflage in her branches to sing and argue.
This past year the leaves dropped again and I cursed the wind for blowing them almost entirely onto my lawn and driveway. As I raked and filled my trash can, I found myself listening to the crunching sound of dry leaves, both under my feet and as I lifted and dropped the rake. I remembered the fall days up north when the cool air would creep in and then intensify until it became winter air. As I remembered this I watched small groups of leaves gently travel down the street while others remain still.
Who knows why the groupings occur.
Groupings of leaves that suddenly organize all at once and tumble for a distance to then just stop. Did a gust of wind really come down from the great and vast sky to only blow just beneath those chosen few? Why did all else remain still?
Movement for this group and not that group, for this person but not that one; relocation in a time allocated to not all, but rather just one, or some. Perhaps those who remain unaffected serve as a grounding or a fixed point to focus on, like a lighthouse, so one sees how far they have been carried.
The leaves kept slowly drifting down from the big tree on the island and I was reminded that the wind would eventually clear them all away slowly and in natures’ time.
So I put my rake away and smelled the air.
Circling around trees is a thing.
It is a good luck thing in many cultures and I often thought about how lucky we were becoming as I watched my son circle the trees on our play island over and over again on his scooter. One New Years day, as the clock struck twelve, my friend ran around it while rolling a suitcase behind her. This was a Colombian thing. They run around the block with a suitcase to bring in luck and the blessings of travel and adventures. When she was done, I grabbed the suitcase and began my run around the island because this new years tradition was way more fun than trying to eat twelve grapes during the final countdown to midnight.
My daughter is not one for running around trees for luck or standing around just to listen to birds, so when she called me to tell me they were cutting the trees and that she felt sad, I was not sure how to react. When she told me this I was in the car just a few minutes from the house and all I could think of was nothing at all. I drove and focused on the road. As I pulled into the cul-de-sac, the street was brighter than usual and the workers were almost done. I stepped out of the car and my heart dropped when I heard the sound of the chainsaws. I stood there just staring at them and the large stump of one of the trees, and I was sorry I ever cursed the wind.
My children came out and hugged me because they knew how this was hurting me.
They wanted to know why they cut down everything on their island. I walked over and asked one of the workers. He said that he did not know and that they were just hired to do the job. I walked away and the tears just streamed down my face, my chest was hurting and my anger was in a tug of war with my sadness.
I shut the bathroom door and cried because the birds lost their singing place, because the mother duck would not be back, because the squirrels probably scurried away in fear.
I cried because those trees were alive.
In my house we boil water in a pot for tea. There is no microwave because then we would rush through life never taking in the sound of the water boiling and never calibrating our time to the time it takes for it to boil. The ceremony of it all has taught my children to wait and has taught my daughter to sit at the table and sip her tea.
I guess it just took too long for the leaves to blow away. Natures’ time was too slow, and a meeting about the leaves was held.
The new association had been hard at work all year leaving letters for residents about not bringing in the garbage cans on time, grass that was too high, cracks in the driveways and the list went on and on. To them the leaves made the street look dirty, and to wait for the wind to blow them away took way too long. These are the kind of people that can’t wait for water to boil and that don’t sit down to sip their tea.
I pondered all of this as I poured the hot water in my cup that held a tea bag and some honey. I imagine they would now place some simple tropical palms and a large rock in the center of the island. Simple and clean. No leaves.
The street is so bright now. There is no shade. And it is quiet. I also have not heard any squirrels run across my roof.
Perhaps it is time to find a new little house somewhere.
One with big trees. I will buy a big rake.
And never curse the wind again.
(Excerpt from Loose and Connected Thoughts and collages by Damaris I Ferrer.)