American Beech in Autumn

Each day is precious. This old and tired expression might be considered trite by some. I view it as much more than a figure of speech. I have recently found it to be a way of life.

Long ago, spiritually, I aligned my way of thinking to that which was most similar to those of my distant Native American ancestors. I revere the Earth that I walk on. In my view it is best to tread lightly on our planet. It is both a responsibility and a privilege to have experienced this life in our world. I am blessed and I understand that the past, the present, and the future is now. And even though I recognize how insignificant one life can be in this vast universe I also know that one drop of rain creates ripples in a pond that can spread across the surface of the water for great distances.

On this early morning mid-autumn day I am walking in the deeply forested hills that surround our homestead. The air is crisp. The morning sunlight is bright. Each ray brightens the copper and bronze leaves that remain on the red oaks and beechnut trees. The forest floor, littered with the foliage of maples and birches, is brightened with yellow, red, and orange colors. I am within the wonderful tapestry of a autumn New England forest and I am overwhelmed with the brilliant beauty that surrounds me.

I came hear for solace. I lost my sister four weeks ago. Even though my older sister Cheryl and I lived our adult lives hundreds of miles apart we were, in many ways, attached at the hip. We had an unusual common bond. We both survived a very challenging childhood. In those days when times were tough she made me laugh. When I was scared she held my hand. And when I needed to be comforted she stood beside me as if daring anyone or anything to break our bond.

We both exited our younger years and became strong adults. Cheryl bore emotional scars that were never as much a part of my life. The scars, in part, were a symbolic badge of honor. The kind of badge you get when you have saved someone. That someone was me.

Her passing was sudden and completely unanticipated but no preparation on my part could have made this any easier. Her loss feels like losing a body part. Nothing more and nothing less. In my view, the passing from this life to our next journey is an honor. Those left behind are burdened for a time. That is part of the beauty of life. There is balance in this universe. We all feel great joy and great pain. Without one the other would be meaningless.

On this day for the first time I can feel the burden lifting. I sit on the trunk of a fallen oak tree. I am facing southeast. The warm sun finds slivers of open space between the branches and lands on my face. I can feel its energy and how it is capable of restoring our soul.

A raven flies into view and lands on a tree limb above my head. It is unusually quiet and does not squawk at me as they sometime do. It stares at me and makes a plinking sound. The rhythmic noise is pleasing, even comforting. The black bird tilts its head to one side as if it is pondering my presence, it croaks and flies off towards the next ridge line in a due north direction. I’ve always set my moral and spiritual compass to due north. The symbolism is overwhelming.

A northwest breeze rolls up over the hill behind me. It carries away sad thoughts. I know longer feel intensely overwhelmed. I know that my sister is well and with our ancestors. I know that she is part of the great beyond. I will remember and treasure our happy times. I will lovingly laugh at all our funny moments. She will forever remain in my heart. But most important I know that it is my responsibility to return my thoughts to the present where I can feel the love of my wife and my family. Goodness knows I treasure them like nothing else.

And right now I know it is time to appreciate the clean crisp air, witness the bright blue sky, feel the strength of the forest, and welcome the sun light that fuels the Earth.

Each day is precious. I am thankful for this life.

Looking through wild oats to the great beyond.

Originally written for the Heath Herald in late the autumn of 2015.

  • Ratty

    I wish we would never have to lose those close to us. But then reality gives us painful reminders of what we all face. I hope you are doing as well as you can.

  • Teresa Evangeline

    My deepest condolences, Bill. I’ve not lost a sibling yet, but can imagine the sense of absence you have been feeling …. I’m also glad to know you’re moving forward with an understanding that sustains. Your photo of wild oats is the perfect accompaniment to this beautifully written post

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you Teresa. Your kind words are just what I needed to hear.

  • Wild_Bill

    The beauty of life is the precarious balance between life and death. Thank you for your positive thoughts Ratty. It really does help.

  • Montucky

    I am sorry for the loss of your sister, Bill. I know what that is like. Your thoughts though are edifying, and comforting to me and I thank you for expressing them.

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you Montucky. Life is full of surprises, good and bad. All part of the balance.

  • Barbara

    Oh Bill – please accept my deepest and heartfelt condolences on the passing of your sister. It’s hard, so terribly hard to lose someone with whom you have such shared history. Your ode to her and to life is truly beautiful, and touched me deeply. We humans are truly blessed in being able to appreciate all that surrounds us and gives our souls nourishment…may you continue to do so. This honour to your sister is probably one of the most exquisite pieces of writing I’ve had the privilege of reading. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings in such a beautiful way.

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you. I am humbled by your statements.

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