by Kent Fletcher
I mowed and mowed somewhere in the vicinity of five acres today, the first half before noon, the second half after 5 p.m. Hot, hot, hot, but dry, too, so the heat wasnít as noticeable. I was to finally call it a wrap around 7 p.m. tonight. At least I was able to further my tan.
After I finished the mowing this evening, the pooch was telling me she wanted to go for a ride. As I was out of beer, we went on a ride to the beer store in the next county, just down the road about ten miles. It was still hot, but not really uncomfortable to me, at least. She was huffing and puffing up a storm, though.
I was in the store a few minutes longer than I planned. Some guy from San Antonio was talking to me about my car -- an antique, 1973 Volvo 1800ES. Still runs like a top, most of the time. Other times, it can be a real pain in the butt. But all said, I wouldnít sell it for less than $20K. In other words, I donít want to sell it.
Returning home, taking the scenic route back, a state highway instead of the interstate, I drove to the rear of the property where I normally park. Not really wanting to go back inside the house at the moment, the pooch and I sat under an old oak or elm tree. Iíve got a chair and a makeshift ottoman there, along with a discarded table. The southern Texas breeze was finally kicking up, and after a day of 97-98 degrees with heat indexes of more than 100 degrees, it was really quite nice to sit. Out here in the country, itís so quiet, so peaceful once the sun goes down. As there is not much traffic on the highway out front, even with my tinnitus I can hear birds chirping in the trees across the back of the property, and the dogs barking several lots over.
By now youíre probably thinking this is just another rambling story by some dude
out in the hinterland of Texas. Well, maybe, and then again, maybe not. Humor me for a few more moments.
Then I happened to lean back, let my head fall back on the web chair and looked up. What I saw really kind of hit home, right between the eyes. Above me were branches of the tree, remember the tree I mentioned several paragraphs back? All my other thoughts just simply stopped for a few minutes. As I gazed skyward, all I could see were branches galore, lots of dead ones, but quite a few live ones. The gaze was anything but frightening, more along the line of enlightening. What I saw in my eye, in my mindís eye, was life itself, the constant ins and outs of being, how my life has crossed paths with other lives, human and animal. Really, really interesting.
So I sat and thought and contemplated all this for a while. The breeze was beginning to feel really good, all was calm in the outdoors, and it was kind of like the setting for a period of reflection. Interesting, really interesting.
I was trying to get my thoughts in order, gazing upon the moon and the evening star, watching and hearing an occasional plane go by, wondering where the folks on those planes were going. I was relaxing for a change, but my thoughts were constantly being brought back to the branches above me, to the tree I was sitting under. Then I began to try to collect my thoughts of the moment.
I thought of the main trunk of the tree, the base, as the symbol of life itself. The trunk represented to me the basic foundations of life, being rooted in the soil with unknown totals of tap roots and other roots reaching out below the ground surface for water, for other supporting elements of life.
As the trunk rose skyward, eventually there was a split in the trunk, branches emanating from the main source. These branches represented to me different aspects of life, perhaps brothers and/or sisters, cousins, aunts and/or uncles. The branches couldnít be the foundations of life as the trunk is the foundation for the branches. And the earth and all its elements along with the root system were supporting the trunk, illumined in my mind as the father and mother and all preceding ancestors of this single tree.
So the branches were many, again some were dead as if the contacts met once were no longer there, but the live branches were still searching, still interested in making contact outside themselves. And not like some pictures, some representations of trees, the branches are forever criss-crossing paths among themselves, going different directions in everyday life, constantly searching for the illusive light from above, for the better breeze which carries the elements of life for the whole tree, primarily carbon dioxide, correct me if Iím wrong. For the trees and other root systems are of the earth, are part of the sustaining factors for the human race, et al, giving off oxygen by photosynthesis.
Anyway, as I gazed skyward through the branches, noting the quick and the dead among them all, I was able to relate the meaning of all these branches. The dead ones represented to me my past life, the ventures and even adventures I have experienced, in which I have met people who may or may not have influenced my life in earlier times. Some of these dead branches may have been long-lost friends, distant kin, beloved animals, and mere acquaintances. The officers and gentlemen I worked with and for during my career in the Navy, as well as the enlisted folks, above me as well as below me in rank, could be included in these dead or dying branches, for they all had some kind of impact on my being. My past marriage partner, lovers, and friends could be included, too. Surely they have moved on to other pastures, to different lives, to better ways to live, to better companions for their own lives.
And the live branches? They represent to me the current times of my life, and the future as well. I can see in the live branches current relationships, current friendships, current ways I live my life, reaching out constantly in search of meaning or even new meanings in my life. A child, a neighbor, a niece, a nephew, a brother, a sister-in-law, anyone who can sustain my drive to constantly learn new ideas, new ideals, new meanings for my being are represented to me by these live branches.
And then there is the mistletoe, a parasite that kills as it lives. The old tree I was sitting under earlier this evening is covered, absolutely covered with mistletoe. And as pretty as mistletoe is, it is still a parasite.
Perhaps this old tree is just that Ė an old tree, dying in its own time. But I also believe, I also know, the mistletoe is sucking the basic raw energy from the tree, the basic raw life from the tree. The mistletoe represents, to me, those things in life which rob us all of life. Alcohol, drugs, nicotine, smog, industrialization, venereal disease, HIV/AIDS, herpes, caffeine, cancer caused by any or all the above, heart problems, worry, anxiety, Alzheimerís, heartburn, sunburn, heat exhaustion, murder, mayhem, anorexia, bulimia, gosh, where does it all end?
There is no answer to the question as long as humans remain humans, as long as the majority rules, as long as there is an Ďeasy way outí of a current bad situation. Only by eliminating the mistletoe can the tree sustain life outside of some kind of other infestation. The cycle of life goes on.
Kent Fletcher, native Mississippian and retired military, now lives in Texas. Contact Kent at this e-mail address.
Read more of Kentís ďmeanderingsĒ:
Hotrods and high school
Raisiní Delta cain
Roguing beans and a Ď39 Plymouth
Ghosts of Christmas Past
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