I Envy the Trees

I envy the trees,
The ones that seemingly went dead in the freeze
Dropping all their leaves leaving their branches bare
But now they’re back,
Lush and lusty, “uttering joyous leaves of green”
Like I’ve never seen before.
I envy them. Wouldn’t it have been great to take a break
So resolute you don’t even have to look alive
And to do all that so that you could spring back to life.

Unlike the trees, Live Oak church did not stop, did not seemingly go dead during the freeze or in the pandemic. But as a congregation, overall, I believe we are weary.

As individuals, we are weary. If not physically, then emotionally. We were not made for the isolation we experienced. Thousands of years of evolution shaped us to be able to lean into each other when times were hard.

There was much that we did do, in order to care for each other. Through geo groups, the Advent boxes, Stewardship, Valentines, and Easter events, weekly gatherings, we endeavored to maintain our connections through the year.

But here is a reality that I don’t think we should be afraid to face: if the pandemic had only happened to one of us — if only one family had needed to isolate, quarantining even to the point of keeping their kids home from school and doing their jobs from home — we would have surrounded them with love and care. Their freezer would be stuffed full with casseroles; we would have been running errands for them and sending them greeting cards.

But the pandemic happened to all of us. Yes, we all had different experiences of the pandemic, but it happened to all of us. We were all quarantined in some fashion.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that this period was made more difficult by the fact that we couldn’t give nor receive the level of care that would have made this more bearable. AND … we don’t have to extrapolate this experience broader than it was. It IS okay to lean on people, and to want care. Hopefully, this type of isolating event is not something that will repeat. To make a vow that we simply won’t need other people, in the vain hope that we will not be disappointed again, is unhealthy. As is carrying guilt or shame that we couldn’t do what we didn’t have the capacity for.

I envy the trees, but I also think of my favorite poem (and it was even before I came to Live Oak!), I Saw in Louisiana A Live-Oak Growing, by Walt Whitman:

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.