Tree

I like trees with style. And they’re so rare.

We found this one on a short walk on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Years ago, there was a path down the bluff, a road actually that the local police used to surprise midnight partiers, half dressed and half in the bag in the summer moonlight. Maybe this tree marked the beginning of a secret trail. Come this way, the tree says, the fun is down here.

But the bluff started to collapse. Big trees with deep roots that were supposed to protect the bluff slid out from under themselves, whole giant trunks laying sideways and upside down, their leaves green for years because of one last tenacious root. The temptation to climb those fallen trees down the bluff to the shore was often overwhelming, the signs threatening permanent damage to the ecosystem notwithstanding. You can’t just go an indulge yourself whenever you want. There’s nature to attend to.

I’m married now with four grown children but when I used to come to this park in earnest was when I was single. I went there with my daughter on the weekends she stayed with me. That the bluff was shot was the perfect metaphor. Everything was upended and askew and there was no way to get to the better place, the place by the water. You had to stay up high and just look at it from afar.

Why I chose to go there I don’t know. It had an old fashioned merry-go-round that was propelled by holding on to it, running like the devil and then leaping on or if you were the parent, putting your child in the middle, and running like the devil until the child laughed. When we were there a few weeks ago, I was surprised that the merry-go-round was still there along with a ridiculously high old metal slide. Across the way, there was a modern playground, safe, with a lot of things to climb and nothing that spinned. “I’m glad they didn’t take the dangerous stuff down,” I said to my husband.

When I went to the park then, I was so bereft. So full of regret at what I had done to my little family, so lonely and purposeless, so eager to create a normal day. To run like the devil while my little girl sat on the merry go round so I could hear her laugh. When I go back now, so many years later, so many happy times since, so much healed over, I remember those raw sunny days of pretending life would turn out okay.