Today I went for a walk in the forest with Dunham and Elsie, my grandparents. They walked slowly, taking care not to stumble over the roots stretched across our path like interlacing fingers. Dunham stopped in front of me and gazed up at an ancient tree. "What a beautiful tree!" he said. I smiled and stopped next to him. We both gazed up at the strong, thick trunk and the many graceful branches radiating out to nestle among the surrounding trees. The day was foggy. The woods were scented with moist earth, fresh growth, and rotting pine needles. My grandmother stopped ahead of us and pointed out a small, sickly tree. "Oh, what a poor little tree. There's not enough light for it," she explained, pointing to the tall trees around it. "Good luck," she said, touching the branches gently. Her compassion for this tree touched me deeply. I stroked the branches as I passed, too. Dunham stumbled over a root, and teetered for a moment, on the verge of falling, and caught himself just as I reached out my arm to steady him. I became aware of my own body; its strength and vigor, and how it will one day become old and unsteady. I was aware of my reaction to stick my arm out to help him. How wonderful that we can instinctually help each other!
We continued to walk along, stepping over roots and rocks, listening to the birds, smelling the earth, and admiring trees. I touched my own roots with every step I took on the tree roots. We paused to rest. My grandmother craned her head up to the sky and the branches above us. "You know, trees are like people. Their roots are all connected like families." I took her hand and felt my feet firm on the ground, my roots deep in the earth.
Last we heard Lizzy was in college in California.
Photo courtesy of Plum Village