Following Up (and Down and All Around)

Today, I read a lot of Endgame by Derrick Jensen.  If you recall from my mention in a previous post, it’s about taking down civilization to build up a liveable world.  Among lots of other things.

It took me awhile to buy it, after I wrote that post about Justice and Heat and Beauty and that book and gay marriage and trees and all… Not because I had to go far; I got it at Word Up.  Not because it’s expensive– the two volumes together were only $6.  Because… I was waiting.  Because it is scary, and because it is large, and also, in some other way that I don’t know how to articulate, because I was just waiting.

There’s a lot in this book, and some of it I am absolutely, hands down sure is true.  And some of it I am not.  But so far there is nothing in it that I am absolutely, hands down sure is false.  I can say that much.  And I’m not actually writing this post to go on and on about this book– not yet, anyway.

But I wanted to follow up.  Because everything I wrote before about the trees and their stripped off bark and their beauty is true, but it can’t be the end of the story.  The end of the story can’t be, I look at the injured trees and they are still beautiful.  That’s a great middle.  But it would be an end that takes me out of relationship with the trees, or makes the relationship only something symbolic and about my psyche.

Of course relating to trees is totally symbolic and about my psyche (she phrases this way so as not to invoke psychic, not to go too far so that you’re picturing the thoughts of trees flowing into her brain, even though that kind of is exactly what she means, if we just had a word better, larger, more precise than “thoughts”).  But it is also about my body and my breath (most especially my breath), my fingers and my feet and my head and my lungs, and the bark of the tree and the roots of the tree and the leaves of the tree.  If it becomes only about the idea of me thinking about the idea of a tree, the relationship is a fantasy– and no longer, I think, the kind the helps.

What I mean to say is that today I looked up what to do when bark has been stripped off trees.  I learned that probably these trees will survive.  I learned that stripped bark on a tree is very, very much like open skin on a person.  So it helps to clean it.  It also helps to trim back raggedy bits of bark around the wound, and to bind up any strips of bark that remain with the tree so it can heal itself.  But right today, I didn’t have tree trimming equipment and I didn’t have bark binding equipment– but I had water and soap and a sponge.

I took it all down to the trees and I cleaned all around the wounds as best I can.  It was surprisingly scary.  I felt like someone was going to ask what I was doing, or that whoever is hurting the trees  would pop up and… stop me?  Attack the trees?  Attack me?

I also felt much more keenly aware, in my fingers and my whole body, of the trees as alive.  It made my sadness and anger at their mistreatment stronger, different.  And I also felt, finally, that I was giving something real to a tree, which maybe I had never done before, not in this physical way.  That part felt good.

I’m trying to stay in touch.  I’m trying to open to and understand the relationships I have with the different lives all around me– and, also, remember that it’s not all about me.  It’s not all about how I see things or what I feel about a tree, it’s also about what that tree needs and if I can provide it.

Remember that saying, the personal is political?  The corporeal is spiritual, too, the spiritual is corporeal.  What is in our souls is not separated and floating, detached from our bodies, but pervades our bodies and is pervaded by them.  I believe.

So there I was, washing the trees, hoping it would do some good, and concurrently (in the general trajectory of my life) feeling more and more suspicious of much of the trappings of Christianity and even, sometimes, maybe, just kinda, or a lot,  suspicious of its heart– and in my head is this song:

Jesus took a towel and he girded himself, and he washed my feet, yes he washed my feet.  Jesus took a basin and he knelt himself down, and he washed, yes he washed my feet.

I ask the trees for their blessing when I go by them each day, and I try to give mine.  But now the stakes are changing.  Now I know that the stakes are grounded in my body, and the bodies of the trees.

So mysterious, I don’t even know what to say.  But I wanted to say something.

This isn’t much of an end, either.  Good, maybe.


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