Humans were once thought to have sprung from trees. The image of Daphne being transformed into a tree to escape a lecherous Apollo rises up in my memory. She prays to the river god to save her and he turns her into a laurel tree. Just in the nick of time. At the edge of the threshold beyond which lies violation. How many women have wished to become such a tree, I wonder, sinking their roots into the soil where they live, free of the duties and dangers of womanhood?
What do we do when the soil that we sink our roots into has become violated by what rises and flows from the power plants that enable us to turn the lights on when we awaken each morning? That enable me to lie late in bed (it's Saturday, after all) with my laptop, typing this meditation on trees?
That the ground upon which we stand is being violated, that the river where my small daughter and I sat, throwing sticks into the current, has been woven through with contaminants I can't even pronounce , that the air itself teams with dust that is not the cosmic dust we've been told has circulated through space since the moment of creation but the dust from power plants, riding the currents for hundreds of miles, how do I hold that reality in my head this morning as I stare out my windows, feeling the usual surge of gratitude that I live in a place where not only can I see trees from every window of my house....but I can also shove my feet into my bedroom scuffs and go walk outside among them, drinking my second cup of coffee?
The trees have always been my refuge, whether I stand at the window looking at them or go walking into their leafy presence. The Appalachian mountains are the "vegetation cradle" of North America. They have cradled us, as well. That cradle needs our care. Our tending.
It needs our lullabyes, our love songs, our hands and minds watching over it.
Maybe we should for a moment in our imaginations become Daphnes, feeling our roots sinking deep into soil, our leaves clinging or letting go, squirrels skittering over our branches while our dogs yap below, eager to give chase.
Or maybe they are just pissed off because we have all suddenly disappeared and their supper bowls sit empty on the porch!