Welcome to Day 16 of 31 Days of Kissing the Wounds, a month of posts about the beauty, longing, and soul inherent in our damaged selves; in the world’s brokenness; in the imperfection, incompleteness, and transience of all that we love; in our recognition of each other as the walking wounded; and in the jagged, messy, splintery, deformed, sullied, unhealed parts of me, you, the natural world, our communities, the culture. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others.
A few years ago, sometime in 2012, these twin pine trees growing along Kezar Lake in Sutton NH were cut down, likely to create an unobstructed view for someone’s house.
This year, another mature, seemingly healthy tree was taken down, again probably to clear the view for new homeowners. The stump that remains bears no sign of rot, but it’s possible, thought doubtful, that it was removed for reasons other than for someone’s aesthetic sensibility. (I may have a photo of the tree itself among my many photos of Kezar, but it’s hard to tell as I don’t label them by the house across from which they stand, and I am not expert enough in the ways of trees to be able to tell one individual from another most of the time.)
Friends who came upon the fresh cutting before I did were moved to make the stump a cairn as a way to help us heal our grief at the tree’s loss — our solidarity with the victim — and as a way, I think, to heal our complicity as humans who create stumps, often without much concern for our actions — our solidarity as those who create victims. At least, this is how I see our cairn.
So every time we walk by it, together or separately, we add a stone or a shell as a reminder, a way of keeping this particular tree in mind, to mourn for it and its tribe whose lives can be cut short so quickly and arbitrarily by us (as well as by other forces of nature), and as a sort of memento mori for ourselves as well, a reminder that we too are mortal and will one day cease to grow.
The cairn changes all the time. People add and remove items, move them around, stack them and unstack them. Once we added an acorn, which was of course gone the next time we walked by (which was the next day), taken perhaps by a chipmunk, a squirrel, the wind.
I like the idea that unknown people interact with each other via the tree space.
I bought the larger, bottom rock — green, orange, cream — from the Connecticut River near The Path of Life in Windsor VT, where I was walking yesterday, to place on the cairn today, and then found the smaller, matching top stone there on the stump already.
Have you ever made an attempt to heal a space, a place, an event, yourself in this way?
“After all Red had been through today — —the grueling physical effort and the din and the punishing heat, the altercation with the neighbor and the painful scene with his father — Red was calmly studying the stump to find out how old it was.
Why did this hearten her so? Maybe it was the steadiness of his focus. Maybe it was his immunity to insult, or his lack of resentment. ‘Oh, that,’ he seemed to be saying. ‘Never mind that. All families have their ups and downs; let’s just figure the age of this poplar.’ — Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread
Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.