Beginnings and Endings

The maturity of man— that means, to have reacquired the seriousness one had as a child at play. F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

I wrote the following thoughts in 1987, inspired by the Nietzsche quote. Revisiting them now, I wonder if I’ve lived by them. I try to fill up all the gaps in my life. Why? Mortality. Fear of death. It’s only natural. Yet the original intent of those words still rings within me, muted by doubt, tempered by experience.

The very verbiage with which we play every day, like a child in a sandbox, often reveals shiny objects. But isn’t luster lost with too much handling? And aren’t the shiniest of those mere reflections of light from elsewhere? Yet who would deny the child chasing a butterfly or a star? What of the mother-of-pearl shell we’ve found, taken home, washed and put on the windowsill, then forgotten? What really matters?

The sadness I carry while burying my departed dog is a reflection, another side, of the sweet emotion I use to wet my lover’s lips today. It is the beginning of some end.

The artist alone know the complexity of the blackest black. And only she knows where and how to use it in the shadows of the sunniest painting.

To tattoo our entire body with the greatest symbols of man would not begin to betray the seriousness of the cat sitting by the window watching snow fall. But who watches the cat? Who watches the watcher?

May you love the seriousness which goes beyond Good and Evil.

Nearly 20 years has passed. Almost half my life has been lived in the meantime, done with, finished. Yet endings are continuous, always revealing something new. I face forward.

A few days ago I had a large Bradford pear tree cut down. It was at least 22 years old, pretty old for that kind of tree. The older varieties, of which this was one, were known for splitting at the “crotches” of their many, heavy limbs. Depending on where and how a large branch fell, it could cause severe damage. I had taken measures to support the weaker joints over the years. I had even had the canopy lowered to relieve the top heavy weight.

Luckily this one had not yet split. But a large crack had formed in one of the larger crotches. Besides, I was tired of raking leaves in December, since it held its leaves very late. Its span covered my entire front yard, so its branches were slowly shading to death all the plants beneath its canopy. The time had come.
before tree removal
That tree was there when I bought the house 15 years ago. Now it’s gone. It’s unique and particular branch structure is no more. I thought about how it came from a single seed. For twenty some years it carved its way upward against gravity. It endured heavy winds, ice storms and bitter cold. It was a vigorous tree, covered with white flowers in Spring. In Fall it often glowed with bright yellow to orange leaves. Its branches housed numerous squirrel and bird nests. I had hung several wind chimes in its branches. My cats had climbed it hundreds of times, sharpening their nails on its stout, craggy bark. Most Winters, on a warmish day when I felt a bit of Spring fever, I’d get out the saw and prune its branches. I enjoyed the exercise and feeling of accomplishment. This tree endured many, many prunings. I thank it for its shade, for its vigor, for its life.
Pear tree gone
The day it was cut down, I was tense. Naturally, I feared some kind of accident, damage to my house or my other plants, or perhaps the climber would fall. All went well. Upon seeing the empty space right after it was removed, I felt anxious about having done it. I don’t like cutting down trees. Too many beautiful trees have been removed on my street recently. But I knew I had little choice.

As I stood looking at the open front yard, my neighbor came over and told me she had seen a red tailed hawk circling interestedly over my fron yard within hours of the tree’s disappearance. It seemed a healthy omen from nature. What do you think?

Now my front yard is open for the first time since I’ve lived here, a third of my life. The house, with its rich colors, will be more visible from the street. With more light the ornamental plants around it will now flourish. I can begin to replant the 100’s of crocuses which used to flourish with a burst of rich color in the small lawn area each Spring.

I’m already dreaming about which small, ornamental tree will fill that prime spot in my front yard. The shocking change has inspired me toward gardening for the first time in years. The loss of that pear tree will perhaps mark other new beginnings for me. If I allow myself the childish seriousness Nietzsche wrote of, I can feel it. Change carries both death and life. Endings and Beginnings.

18 thoughts on “Beginnings and Endings

  1. It is the beginning of some end.
    I can see why you might have mixed emotions about such a change — it’s big! But your house is lovely and, with your green thumb and the coming Spring, I expect the yard will adjust and come into its own again. Differently beautiful.

    I have a tree that will some day need to come down and I’m dreading that change. But you’ve given me some comforting ways to think about it, when it comes time.

  2. Hi MB- Yes, it’s a big change. I’ll put up another photo in a few months to show all I plan to do in Spring.

    “Differently beautiful”. I like that.

  3. Shankari- It is bare. But onward and forward is the only direction. Yes I will plant another tree for sure. What do you think the omen means?

  4. I think the omen means that the hawk is watching and that you should take care with what you choose to put there. We know that you’re going to do that and the hawk will watch over the new plant to make sure that it grows and thrives, just as you will.

  5. The crocuses will be a lovely addition. Fritz has been planting daffodils all over his property for almost thirty years and they have spread like wildfire. The best estimate now is 15,000. Cars stop in spring to take pictures.

    Bulbs are the first sign of the return of life and light after winter–rebirth and rejuvenation to body and spirit.

  6. Your post reminds me of TS Eliot’s writing in which he states in the beginning of the poem that “In the beginning is my end,” and he concludes the massive work with “In the end is my beginning.” Or some such thing…I can’t remember exactly. It’s been so long.

    I love that your posts bring these things back to me.

  7. Thank you Liz, I will heed my deepest intuition as to what I put there. I thnk the hawk was also checking out some new feeding ground. But I’m happy to have him around.

  8. Will- WOW, I’ve heard stories about those kinds of plantings. I’ve even read a story about a hillside of daffodils which were planted over 40 years. I love a large patch of color in the spring, and crocuses have such deep wonderful colors. I also specialize in other early flowers, such as Helleborus and Hammamelis

  9. I’ve found that change itself (in moderation, of course) is a good omen. Wonderful post Garnet-David.

    Ciao for now…

  10. Teri- I think I thrive on change. I say “think” because I wonder if, as I age, that still applies. In some ways I feel more at ease in chaos than I do with utter predictability.

  11. I like these words:

    “The artist alone know the complexity of the blackest black. And only she knows where and how to use it in the shadows of the sunniest painting.”

    For some reason it is always hard to cut down a tree, even one that is inconvenient or messy, even the one that throws off branches in the slightest wind, branches that stop a mower or break its blades. Trees seem to hold a significance for us and almost everyone has a special tree in memory.

    Life brings change and it always has two sides, the lament for the past and the anticipation of the future. Tomorrow may shine bright and sunny, but its very brightness will cause the shadows of memory that lurk in corners. We need both, Garnet.

    Have a wonderful time planning the future of the spot the tree formerly occupied. Spring is nearly here!

  12. Hello Ned, welcome back to your computer and the internet.

    Trees are easily the oldest living things around us. Perhaps that’s why they “speak” to us. But not enough people notice their worth. Down the street one neighbor cut down a healthy, non-branch dropping red oak to give more light to a wimpy, VERY sick Japanese maple, which is not even native here. That’s sick.

Comments are closed.