The road winds its way through the neighborhood following the heaping hills of this part of the world. It is so lush this time of year, a surreal green from the rains made more vibrant by the yellow of the setting sun. The light breezes of this golden hour bring to life the chorus of mature trees. There are 431 of them on the property comprised of 48 species. I know this from my chance encounter with Daryl who, on this most perfect of evenings, is out for a walk with his dog. He followed in your absence as the head of the groundskeeping committee. You knew that though, and there is the inescapable thought that you sent him to tell me this 'inventory' of trees, a word lacking the poetic resplendence of the wondrous grounds surrounding me. And, I suspect, you sent Carolyn as well to regale me with stories of how she used to ask you to trim the branches of her willow-like tree to make it easier on the gardeners. I am so glad you didn't listen to her as I watch them gently flutter in the winds of late afternoon across the manicured green carpet of her front yard. Each tree's branches are extending in beauty crisscrossing the evening sky as if holding hands over the great green grass divide between them. Carolyn's curiosity pulled her from her home wondering what this stranger found so intriguing that she was willing to stand there patiently in the long shadow of her tree, camera to eye, shooting the fading light. I am equal parts anxious and respectful as I listen to her while watching the sun dip below the treeline. You see, this was to be my time to walk these grounds, awestruck, at one with your spirit, but you knew that and sent these messengers to me anyway, and so I listen, and I share a bit of our story, yours and mine.
I'm surprised I didn't understand this sooner, didn't connect it in all the years before now. My catalog is full of attempts to capture an emotionally resonant photograph that expresses the singular beauty of a well-shaped tree. But I didn't know, until this glorious evening, that this love of nature was born of nurture and rooted deeply in the experiences of my youth and yours and Mom's love of gardens.
I have read this beauty one finds in the mundane described as the poetry of the ordinary. I like the characterization even more because it suits your humility and affection for the simple things. A stickler for pruning you grasped beyond my measure that cutting back resulted in new growth. I know now that you saw this land for what it could be and worked to shape the branches to provide the dappled light and shadow of early mornings and late afternoons and the cool shade of unrelenting midday sun. I acknowledge that in these trees, unrivaled in shape and contribution to the landscape, you saw then, what I only see now and that it must have been like that with my brother and me, how you shaped us. The metaphor brings tears to my eyes, and I consider the events of the last few days, a celebration with the family you left behind, and am buoyed by the constancy of the deep roots we have to this place and to each other. But as I walk the grounds I consider these gifts with a renewed perspective for you and Mom didn't just give us roots, you gave us branches.
Extending upward and outward from the confines of the small community, we called home, reaching across geographies, states, and seas, beyond the wild imaginings of the child I was. It was a different time although the rosy glow of hindsight color washes the memories in commonplace it seems anything but, if I really think about it. Complex relationships that evolved, rolling along like the hills and valleys that stretch out from this epicenter, and lasted lifetimes. I developed a curious empathy by watching the cultures and communities that sat in your garden, or at her dinner table laden with cut flowers grown outside the shed behind the kitchen. Those nights were inclusive, challenging, dynamic and I paid attention to the routines that existed between flaw and perfection and the duality that became the sextant of this life.