Brother Tree died last night.
I am the first to find him on Christmas Eve morning, 4 a.m., his body massive and smelling like Christmas tree, strewn across the path. In the darkness he is even more imposing and lifelike, even unto death. The smell screams life, even though his scent is only released because he was broke open.
I stand among his branches, sorrowful at his untimely death. I knew the rainstorm was ferocious last night, I could hear it pelting my windows; but I didn’t know it was this fierce. An entire tree taken down by the wind. I gaze up the short hill at his remaining trunk, raw and ragged, with another branchless trunk piece collapsed beside the base. Brother Tree must have been carried by the wind, and I marvel at how that invisible force can move such a strong and stout character.
I breathe deep, welcoming him inside me, and walk the garden loop. When I circle back, I pay him homage once more and break a small branch off as a treasure, a remembrance.
Someone else will find him when it gets light. Someone else will remove his body from the garden to a final resting place.
(Although as day draws to a close and he has yet to move, I start to wonder if the monks feel the same way I do about him).
I like walking the grounds by the Abbey, my feet treading these Kentucky hills. I summit a mound and look back to see from where I have come, survey the land beneath this queenly post. I smile a benevolent smile on all that I see. And it was good. I feel connected, my feet on the ground, as if the earth lives through me and I live through it. The earth experiences me seeing itself. Yet I am small, a miniscule part of this wondrous creation.
The worms have come out to play, too. Fat bodies taking a breather on asphalt, their muddy homes flooded. Hello, worms. Take care to not be squished. But that is someone else’s responsibility; the worms don’t know any more than to do what they do. I walk carefully around them.
I write in my head as I walk. Some might call that thinking; it is not. At least when I write, my thoughts are focused and directed, even as they make me something of a second-hand observer of what is going on. When I am simply thinking, my mind wanders far away and I am not an observer of the present. Occasionally – for maybe five seconds at a time – I can be present to what is. Openness. Awe. Stillness. Until I start thinking or writing about it again.