Trick or Treat
The peach tree gave sweet, sweet peaches for the thirteen years I tended it, though often folks walking by would hungrily strip it, and one year a guy in a white pickup pulled into the space beneath those fruit laden branches and sent his kids up to pick everything. Well, they must have been hungry, and in these days so many are, so I let it go. And it bore well the next year too, and the one after that.
Three years ago we moved the store, and I said farewell to the peach tree and the roses I’d planted, and to the other trees and bits of purest beauty. I’ve left a lot of gardens behind in my traveling life.
Last week the tree was cut; it was a shelter, I was told, for the homeless. A slender shelter at best, but there is a kind of logic that is hard on trees and flowers. I went to touch the stump the other night, and saw the scraped ground, and thought of upturned olive trees a planet away, and salted fields. It’s okay, I’ll plant another tree, and another. For each vanished one I try to plant ten or more, somewhere, in a personal balancing act against forces of..concrete and razor wire. Yes, sure, it hurt my heart. The trees I’ve cared for are close to me as friends, dear as my children; it hurts to see them fall. I can’t dwell on that pain, and I won’t; I’m figuring out where the next trees will be.
And I’m thinking, adept at distraction, of my favorite coming holiday, of the feast of masks and contradictions, in which we all can become anything we wish, in which the homes of strangers are thrown open, in which all children are loved and welcomed for a second or two into a circle of light and sweetness. It’s always been the best time of the year; the time of delicious thrills, of being a princess or a pirate, of sticky sweets and salted popcorn and running through the leafstrewn darkness confident that magic was in the air.
When I guided my own set of dinosaurs and princesses through the streets at night (and my firstborn paused to query whether the sweets had artificial flavor in them)…oh, for all those years how I was encouraged by the lit houses, the handfuls of candy, the flocks of little ghosts and goblins and fairies. I thought—and I still think—this is what the world probably should be like. Where our homes shine with light and every child is welcomed in. Where we can be whatever wonderful thing we secretly desire to be. Where perhaps our dead walk with us, and whisper to us, and tell us all is possible, have courage, taste the sweetness, walk towards that glimmering light.
Trick or treat? Hey, I’ll take both; I want to trick the concrete into blooming and bearing fruit, and I want to share all the treats of this lovely, impossible, heartbreaking world with those who hunger…for food, for love, for righteousness, for welcome.