Painting our new home all day, needing a break I went out to the front yard. It was sticky and hot in June, 1986. I stepped out the front door in my acid washed jeans and t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, walking barefoot through the grass I plopped down on the ground underneath a little Japanese Maple Tree.
Big enough to make shade but smaller than the other trees surrounding it, it drew me in. I laid down on the ground and looked up to the sky through the leaves. Crimson, delicate points on them. I breathed in deeply. All day long, listening to my mother in law yakking I finally had a little peace. I felt a sense of ownership, for this was my land. I owned this little tree on this little piece of land. In the whole, wide, entire world- I now had land. The sun sparkled through the leaves. I even felt a ray of hope for my new but doomed marriage. I noticed the striations in the bark and how they made a pattern going up. This will be my place, I thought and ran my fingers gently through the strands of grass beneath them, like hair.
“Fly, fly air-o-plane!” I chanted. I am balancing two year old Madeline up in the air while I lay on my back in the grass. It’s just warm enough to play outside and the Japanese maple has it’s new spring leaves. It grows a little every year, the reds of the leaves changing with the seasons, sometimes rusty red, sometimes greenish with a little red and my favorite, the brilliant crimson. Though the grass is warm on top, the earth below is still a little chilled below. I love to hear this baby laugh as I throw her gently to the ground, over and over again. “Airplane, Mommy, airplane!” she demands every time she lands.
Years and years later someone broke my heart. I had to run to somewhere safe. I had to leave work, I had to go where no one would talk to me. The car screeched into the driveway and I tore out of it, running, running till I dropped down to the ground and sobbed. The Japanese maple had it’s fall colors on, she draped over me, gently and silently. I rolled onto my back, to my place where I could see the light through the leaves. Being late afternoon the sun was twinkling because it was almost time to go down. In and out I breathed trying to find peace. Trying to find comfort. Trying to figure out why I always loved men that would hurt me some way, whether physically, or emotionally like my current partner. At this moment I just tried to focus on my tree. The spindly twigs that connected to the leaves, the slim yet solid base that I had gotten to know so well for fifteen years. The tree comforted me and I laid underneath it till the grass grew cold and damp below me while the sun silently went away.
June again. It is really, really hot and I am covered in sweat as I lay down underneath my Japanese maple. Beyond in the driveway is a dumpster loaded to the gills, the moving truck comes tomorrow. After a weekend of packing, selling and purging with friends and family in tow, I am now alone. It’s time to say goodbye to my friend. Thank you, I think to myself. Thank you for being here when I needed to hide or some shade from the sun. Thank you for always providing a sense of familiarity that I needed. My land, I smiled to myself. My land that actually belonged to two banks and was not really mine. But that’s what a 26 yr. old woman thinks, a 50 yr old woman knows better. And now that I’ve sold it I owe nothing. Thank you for getting me out of debt, tree and land. The new couple comes in tomorrow. They are young. They want to have a baby. Maybe the woman will play airplane with her baby underneath your red umbrella. I wonder if she’ll find this place too? If she will see that the slender tree with the delicate pointy leaves will always be there, firm, solid and strong.