I love spending time on my back deck in the summertime. Love it. It has grown to be the sanctuary that I have always longed to create. This makes me feel immeasurably happy. Trees, starshine, relative quiet, begonias and ivy spilling out of pots. Dinner served on oddball china accompanied by a glass of wine and excellent company in the day’s gloaming. These things create a balance within. I value it very much.
Beneath my deck is a fairly sharp drop-off into the ravine below. At the foot of the ravine is a creek. Although I cannot see the creek from my house, I can hear it burbling in the summer and rushing in the spring.
There are two maple trees that grow almost directly beneath my deck. They arc out and away to clear the overhang of the deck, and they then bump right up against the railing in their quest for sunlight.
There is dense forest to the east so the sunrise is diffused and scanty. To the west? The house stands. To the north and south? My neighbors. The sunlight? A tight arc overhead. Sunlight is a rare and divine commodity. And these amazingly resilient maple trees keep overtaking all sun rights.
I dutifully trim each tree back each summer, so that I can maintain one roving and solitary sun spot on my deck at high noon. I used to feel a distinct unease in my stomach when I trimmed these trees back. They work so hard. I look down at their beginnings . . . their roots . . . tucked beneath the deck, and I marvel. These trees maintain an impressive will to survive. I honor this and want it to be duly recognized.
Still . . . the sunshine is such a rare thing in the midst of the forest . . .
Survival. Such a strong word . . . the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances (“Google define:”) Thinking about struggling tree seedlings in the dark underbelly of my deck could be considered to be difficult circumstances. And lest I go too far and appear to be anthropomorphising a maple tree . . . I do acknowledge that what may seem dark and uninviting to me might pose as ideal growing conditions for a maple seedling. It’s possible.
Still, the sunlight. There is always the need for that.
An accident? I am not so sure about the word accident. An accident poses so many debatable thoughts concerning its reality. Do you believe in coincidence? I do. And I don’t. I prefer to think in terms of “natural order” . . . that I am following a natural order that is designed as a result of the deliberate and spontaneous choices that I make. I do somewhat embrace the notion of fate or destiny; still, I do believe that we are all capable of steering our lives into states of “coincidence” that override all of the imaginings that we could and can concoct.
Robert Moss in his awesome book The Three “Only” Things writes about coincidence. Moss writes:
“Everything that enters our field of perception means something, large or small. Everything speaks to us, if we will take off our headphones and hear a different sound track. Everything corresponds. We travel better in the forest of symbols when we are open and available to all the forms of meaning that are watching and waiting for us.”
― Robert Moss, The Three “Only” Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination
“The forest of symbols”: lovelovelove this. The vastly precocious meaning of these symbols.
The summer when I was reading Moss’ book . . . Wow! But was I paying attention! To the largest and smallest of things. Dragonflies performing a skittering and buzzing ballet against a blue sky. Scratched up pennies on the sidewalk. Cloud patterns. Bottle caps in the gutters. Bees dancing around blossoms. A message scrawled across the back of a coaster in a bar. A Lego man forgotten in the grass after a foot-stomping outdoor concert. All of these crazy and amazing symbols were presenting themselves from all angles of the forest. I was listening, watching, thinking, wondering, journaling, creating.
I remember this summer like no other. Why? I was paying attention. I honored coincidence as the harbinger of amazinglifeforce. The stories I created in my journaling that summer were quite fanciful actually. I saw all of these symbols as positive omens for an ultimate outcome that would be blissful. And happy. And rewarding. It felt so great.
I see now that “the forest of symbols” were there for everyone else to see, too. It was how I was perceiving these things that proved unique to me . . . to what it was that I believed would make for a fulfilling life. I was seeking an apex to my compilation of coincidence. I wanted to believe that seeing 4 people walk past me within half an hour and all wearing orange t-shirts meant something. Pay no mind to the fact that there was road work being conducted on the street above my point of musing. Those 4 orange t-shirts were all harbingers of good things to come. I was paying attention.
I know why I loved that summer. It was because I allowed myself the trajectory of fancy that dreaming allows. My journaling put my thoughts of positivity onto tangible pieces of paper in a now-dog-eared spiral notebook. I glanced through this journal just this past weekend. It is written in a curious code that can only be understood by me. I continue to maintain contact with the dreamer within who wrote all of those optimistic thoughts. I was going somewhere that summer. I just didn’t know where or when. But I knew why. I wanted to find a perfect center of bliss in my life.
I digress. Those two maple trees. Sun survival. I generally allow them to grow 6 feet or so above the railing — which doesn’t take long. The loppers come out of obscurity and then my sun spot returns to me — my small roving spotlight of vitamin D. Last weekend I gave each tree a haircut at slightly above deck-railing height, knowing that we both want to grow in the same spot.
I am a careful pruner. I went online and read up on best practices for tree pruning. I mean no harm and intend no long-lasting damage. I honor the growth and the spirit in these trees that some folk in this part of the world regard as “weed trees.” These trees remind me to pay attention. Sunlight can be lost, but it can be regained. The planet keeps spinning and we — the trees and I — keep growing and stretching for more. We attain. We share space and light.
I love my back deck. This summer, the rewards of all of that positivity from several summers ago have come to fruition. I was a believer when I was spinning my “coincidental” symbols into pure sweetness. And light.
“Everything . . . means something . . . everything speaks to us . . . everything corresponds . . .” I hold this thought as I sit here on the back deck and tap away on the keyboard. I remain ever “open and available to all the forms of meaning that are watching and waiting for [me].” I am paying attention.