Insomnia at the beach. Thoughts keep coming to me without my wanting them or not wanting them. I try to pin them down but end up chasing thoughts like little minnows darting from a net. The net I was using were key words like – “human impulses” or “the land bears all our sorrows”. Here’s what turned up:
The land bears all with its own grace, apart from human opinion.
A place is haunted by human memory, as long as people are around to remember.
After that, memory is on it own.
Accord – how to reach accord with nature?
As the ages shall roll, may the circle be unbroken.
All these minnowy thoughts emanating from the death of a young woman at the Pfafftown farm this past spring, from an apparent suicide; it was an impulsive act with far-reaching reverberations within the community, cascading fall-out for the lives of those involved as well as those who barely knew her. She was a beautiful, aspiring, art student whose potential was curtailed by a highly questionable relationship, early motherhood, and subsequent poverty, all formidable but solvable problems. The gun was a permanent solution to a temporary situation.
People mostly die in the confines of buildings, but she was found outdoors, in a section of clear-cut that was growing back, in an inhospitable, scratchy place full of brambles and thorns. The human drama still unfolds as it will, but what of the place where she fell? Is it somehow cursed because of this? Will it be haunted? I’m not talking about ghosts here, but memories written in the land.
People have lived and died on the land for thousands and thousands of years. Civilizations come and go. The land bears them all; sees their joy, their rage, and their ultimate demise and it endures, degraded but dispassionate. With its own grace, apart from human opinion, the land bears all types of human labor, human tragedy, human ambition rife with folly.
Is the land haunted by past lives? A place is haunted by memory, as long as people are around to remember. After that, memory is on its own, buoyed by evidence or artifact, of interest to the curious subsequent intellect. This is what haunting really is – unfulfilled potential, misspent lives, squandered possibilities, remembrance of the brevity of existence through the eroding evidence of the past.
We were planning a trip to visit around Easter when I heard the news, and I was already bringing some small saplings we had started on the deck to maybe plant around the pond. One looked particularly hearty so we decided to plant it where she fell, after the police were done with their investigations. We were all so deeply disturbed by the whole event, the shadowy circumstances, the complete lack of reason behind it all. Her motivations seemed so murky, leaving the community in sad disbelief. All I could think of was – if in doubt, plant a tree.
This tree is a dawn redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides, an ancient species once thought extinct but has been propagated from a residual stand found in China in 1948. If it thrives, it will be a giant, dwarfing the surrounding oaks and pines. Forty years from now, the rosary that hangs on its branches will likely be gone, but if there’s good rain, it could be over fifty feet tall with a trunk over eight feet wide, eventually reaching over a hundred feet tall.
Answering a need for continuity, not through ego like a pharaoh’s tomb, but germinating from a sense of stewardship, of leaving something better than you found it. The land best keeps what it can make thrive.