It may finally be summer. Or spring. Or whatever we’re calling it this year. A week ago it was hailing, and today it’s in the mid-80’s. By itself I would probably not notice since it’s gone back and forth from hot to cold so many times, but this week there were other changes as well
We cut down a huge liquid amber tree that was big when we moved in 25 years ago, and had grown huge over the last quarter century. None of the neighbors could agree on how tall it was, but most guesses came in at 70′ – 80′. The shade in the summer was enough of a bonus to make up for having to trim the limbs every few years, but this winter, which went on forever, it got to be too much. The sap and the birds in the bare branches did a number on my car every night for weeks and weeks and weeks, and weeks and weeks. Did I say it went on for weeks and weeks? That plus the need to replace our roof this summer made up our mind, for we always eyed this behemoth tree warily during storm season. Especially the last few years.
Now two small maple trees about 10′ high stand in the front yard, all staked and watered and fertilized. They seem hopeful and sad at the same time. Hopeful in the golden light of morning and evening, for they carry a promise for the future. Sad in the flat light of noon which seems to emphasize the bare dirt where the stumps and roots of the old tree stood. No amount of wisdom ever entirely gets your gut ready for change.
That’s nothing compared to what the guts of the graduates from the local high school are doing right now. The school is just around the corner. This morning, just after 7:00am they started to drift up the street with parents and grandparents and friends. By 11:00 it was over and all the cars were gone from the curbs. I found myself remembering my own graduation and the biker who led us into the ceremony with a psalm.
As we stood in our caps and gowns in alphabetical order, one of the “A’s” at the front of the line raised his voice and said, “Bretheren and Sisteren, I have a few words to share with you!” Now this was a large biker guy who seldom spoke; he usually just sat around and glowered. But just as they struck up Pomp and Circumstance, this guy pulled out a bible and read the 23d psalm. When all the other memories of high school have faded, that may be the one I remember. Well, maybe not, but it will be right up there.
This morning I found myself watching people returning from the ceremony. A few were laughing and joking, but in general, no one seemed especially upbeat or inspired. School officials mean well, but how can a bit of speechifying while you sit on folding chairs really commemorate what happened, or represent any useful guidance for what comes next?
Too bad the graduates cannot experience the vision quests the plains indians held for their young people. Coming of age should be a time for discerning the themes of one’s life, and the nature of one’s guiding spirits, but that is very seldom what happens these days. Or rather, we all still go on a vision quest, it just is not so well organized or safe. If we are lucky, after a few decades, we begin to get a clue. I found myself wishing the new graduates well, and wishing them a fruitful voyage into the wilderness.