Saturday, March 7, 2015
A February wind was blowing down from Canada. Over great lakes, mountains, cities, and forests, it blasted through an empty spot on Pleasure Road where a Maple tree had once stood. The molecules of forest exhalations felt the lack of form in this place, an echo of the tree that stood here until recently. Recognizing his spirit, they paused and hummed an old tune, a song that only trees know. Within that tune, they added a note of invitation saying he had many brothers and sisters in the northern forests. Then they rocketed on toward distant places, carried by the maelstrom of Boreus, the North wind.
The spirit of the Maple shuddered awake. He had dreamt more than heard the sounds above him, though he recognized the whispers of his kind. The nightmare of his recent death, that is the death of his trunk and leafy arms, still rasped along his consciousness and raced down his roots like fire. He would have ignored the upper world and slept on in his earthen bed, but the faintest tickle of waking seeds around him kindled his desire for the spring push. Uncurling his spirit self from the fetal shape of his retreat, he rose through the ragged stump and pile of sawdust of his former self and looked at the world above.
A thin skin of snow raced along the grass and sidewalk. Between the houses, it rose and circled back to the ground. The pavement of the street that covered half his roots was dry and speckled with salt. He had been forced to drink the dissolving salt for weeks. Well, he wouldn’t have to drink it now. Slowly, he focused his awareness on the house that stood closest to his place. They had imagined that they owned him, but at least tried to be kind to him.
About twenty years ago, the first awareness he had had of his “owners,” as separate from the many people who came and went beneath his boughs, was of their frequent circuits on the paths they took around him. The man walked between the car he parked just north of the Maple’s trunk at least four times every day; the woman’s path and vehicle lay just to the west of the man’s. Once he had singled them out as regular passersby, he grew familiar with their steps, scents, and finally the electricity that pulsed around them. He knew the colors of their inner lives - the shades of happiness, sadness, grief, love and anger they emanated like grounded stars. They lived a frenzied, changeable life he found fascinating as well as alien to his own constant presence and slow transformations.
Then there came the little human who began as a tiny bud, always attached to one of its parents. He watched the rapid metamorphosis of their sapling with astonishment. The little boy went from a bundle of fuzzy wrappings to a tottering ball of light with chubby legs and arms in only two seasons. The tree’s own progeny – had the humans ever allowed them to grow – would have taken twice the time to grow so tall. As much as he enjoyed seeing the little person, he finally understood how deeply resentment ran in his soul when the parents raked up his seeds and carried them away or uprooted his own children from their denuded patches of soil. The soft touches and appreciative looks of this human family did very little to assuage his anger at their hateful practices. They knew the very fulfillment they denied him.
So he began to rebel against them. His trunk expanded and roots strengthened until he pushed the concrete of their walks up and tore at the roadway’s edges. He ran his small roots up into the grass and small patches of flowers and bushes they planted in his space. Then he sucked every drop of moisture and particle of food out of the soil while releasing a subtle poison that stunted the plants. It was a war he could not win, since they fought back with sharp weapons, and water, and fertilizer. Still, the fight gave him release from the pain that ran through his blood, the sap that woke him every spring.
Age finally mellowed the old Maple. The rush of spring’s elixir weakened. Autumn winds carried more twigs away, winter dried his bark. The assault of insects carved out holes in his body, and his limbs began to wither and die. Finally, the green of moss and grey of scaly lichens wound around him and starved his body. He no longer felt such anger at the family because his desire to reproduce himself faded, and the seeds that still sprang from him held no spark. He lost his purpose, except to shade the people that still came and went below him. He noticed more of their admiration and, yes, even their fondness for his graceful arms and colored leaves. He found a simple peace with his people. He was near the end of his long life, for Maples do not live forever. He knew that the years of the man and woman would race ahead to meet death in their time as well.
A man with a chainsaw came and trimmed his dead arms back to live wood. The Maple savored two more cycles of growth and stasis. These were the years that he would always think of as his favorite time on Pleasure Road. The people gazed on him with love. The woman even spoke to him sometimes, in her strange burbling language. He knew she was sending him peace and well wishes. He also knew she was saying good-bye to his physical being. When the man came back to cut him away from his tall life, he did not struggle. He drew his spirit down into the warmth of his spirit’s Mother, and listened to the deep realms of her womb. Hers was the song of existence and love for every manifestation of her Self.
And then a miracle transpired, a moment of healing he had not expected. On the night of the next full moon, the woman had come to pray for him. She had asked the Goddess Luna to bless his spirit. She had thanked him for all he had been in this life and wished for his contentment in the life to follow.
As he gazed today on Pleasure Road, the Maple felt he could be at peace with this place. It had been alien to his kind, but not hostile. Trees of every age and kind awoke and whispered their farewells over the howling wind. Boreus told him he must travel now if he wished to find a place where spring could coax him above the ground anew. He drew himself down into the Earth and raced through the roots and rivers beneath Her surface to the next place he would grow into a young body, joining the cycle of life once more. A deep forest would grant him the room and serenity that fitted his own nature this time. The Maple from Pleasure Road would grace a pleasant place at last.
Monday, March 2, 2015
A "big" birthday has just come and gone…but our favorite local pastry bakery, Dingledein’s, had gone out of business. I’m a scratch baker, but not a professional, or even a yuppie with a ton of equipment and endless dollars to spend. Still, I bake bread weekly, and always baked all the family b-day cakes back in the day. I figured “what the hell archie;” I will just do it myself this year, so I dragged a Bundt pan out of the back of the cabinet and dug out the recipe book that had, long ago with it.
I looked up recipes which would fit in the “mini” pan, found an appealing one, shopped ingredients and began the next day. I chopped cherries and prepped chocolate, sifted dry ingredients and creamed the butter, sugar and eggs. Then, I got out the mixer. I was soon ready to pour batter into the pan. To my surprise, it filled it almost to the brim.
I went back to the recipe book and checked again. Yes—this was specifically for the “mini” pan.
Full steam ahead. I wasn’t listening to the shrill little voice of baker’s experience in my head which was telling me that this cake would, shortly, be all over the bottom of the oven. I didn’t put a cookie sheet underneath it. Why I did this, I can find no reason, except, maybe, sheer stubbornness.
After all, this recipe book has never let me down before…
Well, as the voice of experience had suggested, Vesuvius erupted. I turned the oven off, got gloves and the cookie sheet I should have put under no matter what “the book said.” Anyone who has reached into a hot oven to pick up a molten tub of something knows how scary this is, but it had to be done. Somehow I got the cake pan onto the sheet without more spilling or burning myself. I turned the oven back on, and, an instant later, the floor of the oven burst into flames. After staring for a moment, and realizing that with so much fuel, it wasn’t about to give up any time soon, I retrieved a box of baking soda. I put out the fire, after turning the oven off once again.
Okay! I’d got the fire out, and the cake pan situated so that the still lively volcanic action would no longer end up on the oven floor. Mad at myself, but not yet ready to despair, I went back to cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes, putting away the mixer, etc. and then started on the frosting. Half an hour later, I realized I hadn’t turned the oven back on...
Well, this was a duel now, between me and my own folly. I turned the oven to a lower temperature and began to bake once more. By using a thermometer, I would eventually make a decision about when the cake was done.
At last, I removed it—best estimate—and after it had cooled a bit, and after a long session of chipping the lava flow from the pan sides and disengaging it from the cookie sheet, I managed to pick the whole thing up and turn the cake onto a plate. Believe it or not, five minutes later, the darn thing slipped out of the pan, and in proper Bundt form! About an hour later, I frosted it and my husband and I ate--and ate it. It was—somehow—quite tasty, despite all the adventures it and I had been through together.