Friday, October 3, 2008

Morning meditations with Ollie

One of the more soul-nourishing routines I've fallen into within the last year or so is my morning walk with Ollie, our big goofy Airedale. My alone time has always been important to me. Maybe that's because I was like an only child, my sister and brother being 12 and 14 years older. I barely can recall when they were still living at home with my parents and myself. So I learned to enjoy drawing, reading, watching Captain Kangaroo and fending off voracious lions, giant spiders and crocodiles with my rubber Tarzan knife, usually alone.

I especially delighted in climbing trees. Some summers I swear I was more often in a tree than on the ground. My friends and I built two tree houses. Both were high up in the towering oaks that dotted the Memphis suburb where I was raised from age 9, called Whitehaven. (It wasn't a race thing, the name Whitehaven, I mean. Though come to think of it, it was all white. And it was in the South. And it was the early sixties. Hmmm.)

Frequently I would take a book up into my tree house and sprawl across the splintery planks, swiped from nearby construction sites, for hours on end. I miss tree houses. But I still value my solitude at times and the morning walks provide that. Granted, Ollie is with me but his attention is all focused on squirrels, other dogs and the many places those other dogs have peed. So that's my meditation time.

Near the end of our walk we always veer off into a small green space tucked into a corner of our neighborhood. It's a little playground area that contains a grove of cottonwood trees. I position a chair beneath the largest of those trees, let Ollie run off-leash and I consider that tree.Its limbs have contorted through time and the extremes of Kansas weather, twisting outward, stretching languidly and waving their thousand of small green flags at the frequent gusts of wind. What a wonderful sound those leaves make this time of year. They rustle with an Autumn crispness, the result perhaps of their increasing brittleness as they gradually lose their green to pale yellow. At this early October time some of them are letting go and drifting down to a silent rest on the grass.

For me that tree speaks about endurance. Quiet perseverance. Harmony with the sky and with whatever that sky sends its way. It has lessons to teach us.

When Ollie and I walk by the tree on our way back to the street and towards home, sometimes I brush my palm against its rough bark. That's as close as I get to actually hugging it. I am a proud tree hugger in sentiment, but not quiet literally. Though I have to say that sometimes when I sit in that chair and look up at that old cottonwood, I feel as if it's embracing me. It's one of the best feelings I know.

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