30 May 2011

This Tree

We are on the road again, my daughter and I, heading back to my house after an all too short stay at the ancestral homestead.  A hazy Sunday afternoon somewhere in the Middle Peninsula region, with the Rappahannock River whispering to us from beyond the trees and fields to the east.  The trees are in full leaf now.  It is a very different scene from that of the winter, of the Februaries I wish to leave behind.

It was an occasion to celebrate life and a growing of the good green things in our souls, rather than assemble in the woods to mourn the falling of yet another mighty oak.  It was the first time in many years that I had the blessing of being among extended family for the sole purpose of being in one another's company because we could.  I saw some cousins I had not seen in too long, and met the next generation of the family.  Wee Lass was able to meet some kin she had not seen before, and I...well, I had the honor of basking in her glow, while she played in the pool with the other young ones.

I had forgotten how good that felt.  Back in the day, we used to have these gatherings all the time.  As you may have guessed, I didn't fully get how cool that was when I was right in the middle of it as a boy.

But I know now, yes, I do.  I knew it with each hug given, each kiss on the cheek and every laugh shared.  I felt in in my core as I watched the kids playing in the pool.  I live too much in my own head most of the time, which is really no true home; there in that backyard and for a few precious hours, I was home.

I had the singular gift of holding a four-month old baby, the beautiful daughter of of her equally beautiful mother (a second cousin of mine), and when that baby snuggled her face into my shoulder I felt a circuit trip somewhere in the earth.  The current I could feel flowing through my veins and into my heart.  It was still humming along when we had to leave the next day on our road trip home.

The corn and soybeans are beginning to sprout in the fields.  The crows and the hawks watch over everything, and the trees stand green and proud and harboring deer and rabbits among the undergrowth.  I could see those stands of trees across the green-gold of the planted acres, and it was then I felt another circuit close in the blood of my blood, the laughter in my ears, and the arms across my shoulders.

In the white gold sunshine of the eastern Virginia countryside, I had a revelation. I know how the tree feels to sink its roots deep into the soil from which it sprung.  I know how the tree feels when it becomes aware of the forest, and knows that it is home.

It is Memorial Day, and a time conducive to meditation amongst the cookouts and the sales, and the hoopla of modern American life.  I had plenty of time to think while driving home on Sunday, about what we are supposed to remember, and what we seem to actually do.  I've never been one prone to overt displays of patriotism, but neither have I totally lost sight of what this day is about.  Regardless of where we stand on the subject of the wars and aggressions America has initiated or been drawn into, it is certainly true that quite a few have given so much, including their lives, in the service of an ideal that does represent the best of our desires and intentions.  That service, in part, has made it possible for me to live the life that I do, and for me to enjoy being with my family.  For that, I am truly grateful. 


  1. I too had good baby snuggles this weekend. In my case, a very crabby 6 month old little guy who decided the only satisfying noise in the world was what I whispered in his ear. His mother, father and grandmother (my cousin), just kept delivering his fussy self to my lap. And I loved it...

  2. I do appreciate an extended family gathering these days more than I did when I was younger. Glad you got to go home and share wee Lass w/ the hometime crowd.

  3. a poignant post -- beautiful observations. And on the post script, I feel the same. I remember them for their lives, their selflessness and their ultimate sacrifice.

  4. Glad you got to be with family and extended family, Irish. I don't think there's much better in life than time spent with loved ones.

    I miss the days when we did that in our family too. After the oldest ones leave us and we spread across the country, a family sometimes fractures -- not intentionally, not spitefully -- just a consequence of the core's disappearance.

    It's a good day to remember.

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