Chicago 2014. I sat listening to crickets in the trees one night before our move South. So much unknown terrain stretched out in front of me. I remember thinking that only in nature can the deep quiet be so loud. That is when it happened.
God said to me, “It will be the same.”
What I thought? What will be the same? It is such a surprise to be spoken to this way. Not the way we speak to each other, but a knowing, a memory of the conversation. As if you catch it just after the words are spoken. It took me a minute to gather my wits. What just happened? And then I knew. I was about to pick up my family and move to another planet. God was tucking me into the roller coaster ride with a message to hang onto.
“It will be the same.”
The same trees, the same sounds, the same sky, the same. God will follow me there. With his majestic creation. I will be starting over, a stranger, but I will be wrapped in a cocoon of crickets. The same crickets. They will sing me this very same song. The one they have been singing forever. Since the beginning. A cocoon of trees. The same trees. Green and tall and solid, with roots that connect them in communal unity. A cocoon of sun and sky. The same sun filling me up with the essence of myself. A cocoon of earth and dirt. The same dirt reminding me of where I come from. All familiar and the same. This will be my blanket of comfort in the unease of change.
South Carolina, 19 months later, I stand on my back deck. It is night and I am listening to the crickets in the trees. They are the same. A cocoon of trees tucking me in.
I go to say “good night and thank you.”
I look up at these guardians towering over me. At that moment it happened again.
God said, “It is here to take care of YOU, not the other way around.”
I said, “who?” “what?” There I was again trying to catch the conversation as if that is possible.
God said, “all of it, but especially the trees.”
I stopped chasing and let it sink in. “Wow, that changes everything. What fools we are NOT taking care of them, so they can take care of us.”
I got no response. Just the wind blowing and the crickets chirping. The same as always.
No wonder I feel grief when I see a forest felled in a single day.
Long ago, when God made the world for us, trees had legs. They could walk and run just like us. This is not in the Torah. It was inspired by my daughter, Hannah, one day as we hiked through the forest. Trees traveled from place to place. Usually, they were making sure we were taken care of. It was their job. For thousands and thousands of years this worked. We loved the trees and they loved us more. Then about 10,000 years ago, we stopped living in small family clans and started figuring out how to farm the land. We changed. We started trying to conquer instead of collaborate. Everyone wanted to be the boss and nobody wanted to compromise.
We began killing for meanness. We fought just to fight. The trees were extremely worried for us. The Grand daddy trees called a council meeting of all the elders. They came from all over the world for a once in a million year event. They wanted to help us. Trees know only peaceful protest and standing for what you believe in. Period. No exceptions. They decided that they could only lead by example, and it had to be drastic. That is when it happened. They stood. Still. Forever. The only travel now is a seed carried by wind, or bird or other avenue of nature.
They are waiting for us. They stand still in their love for us. They refuse to move until we change our selfish ways. Of course, we didn’t get it. Still don’t. Will we ever? We cut them down and they let us! They just stand silent. When they fall sometimes a groan slips out, but usually their thunderous fall is all that marks the tragedy. Then the ones still standing just continue their watch over us. A loving example. Waiting.
I am in a quiet place of my life. It is hard lonely work to pull up your roots and replant them. Is this how the butterfly feels? Tucked into her cocoon. Wrapped up tight. Is she quiet and lonely? Or does she know that it is loving protection for the work of change? The only way transformation can take place. Does she know that it is temporary? Something to cherish for the restorative sleep that it is? How I want to appreciate this silent stillness. How I want to become the tree I already am.
I am tucked in my cocoon of trees. They rock me to sleep and sing me to wake. If you listen in just the right way, they will tell you things. Ancient things. They look down with love and look away with respect. They hold me safe. Protecting this time of transformation. They never lose hope. They are always the same. I am the one who needs to change.