Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

The Falling Trees Drop Past My Window…

We don’t spend much time contemplating trees until autumn. Then, when the leaves turn color, the roads into the hills crowd with people hoping to ooh and ahh over the magnificent display. Not long after that, the leaves drop, the branches are bare, and skiers watch the skies for signs of snow. On our property, trees have commanded more attention than usual this year because, although ours have no leaves per se to lose, they’re dropping their needles. Whether from climate change, insects, or toxins, they’re dying.

My husband dutifully cuts down our trees that are “completely dead” and shares the firewood with neighbors whose sole means of winter heat lies in burning. Our motives aren’t entirely altruistic since dry wood invites catastrophic wildfires. It hurts to cut trees—even dead ones. They feel as though they should be timeless. They’ve shielded us from methane fumes and road dust and noise. They’ve sheltered our birds and gripped what little soil we have. But there are forces at work, forces of change that don’t care at all about human beings and aesthetics. Of course, human beings have been an integral catalyst of that change—but we don’t like to think about that very long. We want to do and have what we want to do and have. We all carry an expiry date based on how we’ve tended to our physiological and emotional needs—trees and humans alike.

Yesterday, yet another well-meaning, well-educated doctor threatened me with imminent death as a precursor to my birthday. It’s a lecture I’ve heard almost verbatim from different professionals for at least eleven years, based on generic guidelines. He isn’t wrong. Yes, I could have a stroke any day. Or I could die of COVID or cancer or be hit by a drunk driver. I can’t spend the next eleven years fretting about it—if I should survive that long. The advice of Dr. Dean Ornish once reversed my heart disease—or, rather, my following Dr. Ornish’s advice from one of his books reversed my heart disease. My cardiologist wasn’t pleased. He felt belittled. He warned me that I would, certainly, die. I agreed. I will die. But the ways in which I tend to my needs will probably influence when and how…or maybe not. From the part of my death lecture the neurologist skipped, apparently most people aren’t willing to take responsibility for their own health or death—or, as he delighted in pointing out, disability. I’m not a role model, but I do better than average. I’ve always been an individual—unique and common, at once. And I’m well-read enough to know that I can’t begin to comprehend the entirety of existence. I can play only those cards dealt to me.

Pine trees in the southwest don’t have the same requirements as willows in the east. Water that murders one may figure in the drought that ends the other. Whatever is killing our trees may be killing us, as well. Human greed? People need to seek out as much information as possible before they agree to prescriptions or treatments fraught with hazardous side effects and perform a cost/benefit comparison. We need to recognize and honor our own instincts for what’s best. We house variations in our bodies and minds. Ancient remedies weren’t all useless; they simply weren’t available for lucrative patents. Threats aren’t always predictions. A well-lived life doesn’t require a certain number of days to be valid. Over the years, I’ve learned fear is toxic and spoils fun, and love plus movement, laughter, community, and purpose are potent medicines—short on side effects, long on satisfaction. Pills are pills.

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