At the house across the street grows a large old Ponderosa pine. My ex-husband hated that pine as he said it blocked the view of Mt. Ben Lomond perfectly framed in the window above our front door. I never minded as it didn't block the view from my other windows. And I always thought of the tree itself a worthwhile view.
Over the last couple of years parts of the tree have shown signs of its age -- branches drooping and breaking off, patches of needles turning yellow. I wondered if it was going to die.
Some new people moved into that house last year, and as often happens, changes have occurred around the house and yard. But I was curious when I saw the owner start cutting off branches from that big tree. I wondered at first if he was cutting it down slowly. But it appeared to be more of a pruning and shaping as he worked his way slowly, day by day, higher up the tree, cutting off branches here and there. The hard way. With a hand saw. And standing on a lower branch when the ladder no longer reached. I saw something interesting emerging from his work.
My friend last week noticed the tree and said, it is taking on the look of a giant bonsai plant. I looked and noticed how right he was. The branches that remain seem carefully even artfully chosen. The tree has a lighter, more graceful look. I am starting to love and appreciate its new look. Bonsai. Maybe so. My new neighbors are from Japan.
Yesterday my young granddaughter noticed and exclaimed, "What have they done to that tree!" It's becoming a bonsai, I told her. She looked at it anew and recognized it at once. I knew she would, being an accomplished artist of anime already at her tender age, and a lover of all things Japanese.
The pruning of that tree has given it new life. The wind passes more easily through, posing less threat of breaking limbs or entirely uprooting. It seems to have gained new dignity along with this airiness. And in a windstorm, something like music rushes from its widely-spaced limbs.
Traveling lighter. A wise way to approach old age for all of us. I know, I'm only 61 and it's a bit soon to talk about old age. But I am already paring things down in my own life. Giving away, selling, throwing out. I find I like the airiness of rooms with less furniture. I have less need for more 'things'. My car sits idle in my garage for days on end, more in need of a dusting than a washing.
My good friend -- we've been seeing each other for a year and a half now -- is moving away, a couple thousand miles away, when his house sells, to live out his life near his son. This paring down will leave a gap, perhaps not so much airiness as loss. But we are both accustomed to this type of loss and we already know how to do it, know we will manage. We'll each travel lighter. Maybe there will be others in our respective futures, maybe not. We each laugh and say we are getting a cat.
When my neighbor prunes his tree, he first stands back and looks at it a long time, and finally climbs up and removes that one branch that makes all the difference. In the coming months I will become accustomed to things gone from my life and I will stand back and look and see what further is needed. In the meantime, I will content myself with traveling light, letting the wind blow through, and making music that soothes my surroundings.
(Apologies for photo taken through today's rain-spattered windows - *sigh*.)