The Tree Outside My Window

In the last years of my parents’ lives, they lived in a small apartment in a senior-living facility in a neighborhood that was short on natural beauty. To one side was a mobile home park; on the other was a townhouse development. Two blocks to the north was a six-lane highway bordered by huge office complexes. Yet between the townhouse development and the senior facility was a row of trees. Because this was the Midwest, they were oaks and maples mostly—broad and tall trees with many arching limbs.

My father, who was mostly confined to his apartment because of a stroke, was able to see one of the trees through a small corner window. Through spring, after he had the stroke, and into fall, he witnessed the rhythm of its life: in April, the first leafing out; in summer, when the tree was fully decked out and brimming with birds and sometimes cicadas; and into October when the maple was brilliant red.

It became his daily touchstone: seeing the tree in the early morning light when the rising sun brushed the top of its branches and in the late afternoon when the setting sun outlined every limb. From his favorite chair in the living room, he could admire developing thunderstorms and delight at how the wind shook the limbs and leaves. When I visited him, he would look at me and point to the tree, as if to say: look, out there is life and beauty, something wondrous.

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Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

While I wait, impatiently, to get the Covid-19 vaccine, I can look back at the last year with some appreciation. I’ve learned a lot, although the victories have often been hard won.  

I’ve never been good at technology. Designing my own web site was pure torture, which is one reason it took almost a year to complete it. But with the pandemic, I (and the rest of the world) have had to live most of my life online—chatting with friends, talking to my doctor, and now signing up for the vaccine. (For seniors who don’t have computers, this part has been a challenge.)

I think I’ve mastered Zoom (except for the white light from my webcam that makes my face look ghostly), although it probably took a good six months to become comfortable with it. For the first few months I found myself staring at my image on the screen: was that really how I looked?

Since the pandemic, I’ve attended online conferences and talks that I probably wouldn’t have gone to in person for a variety of reasons—too late at night, too cold out, no place to park. Now, from the comfort of my home, I’ve learned about Boulder’s watershed, been inspired by spiritual teachers from around the country and listened to two of my favorite nature writers talk about the climate crisis.

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Dodging a Bullet

Everyday, almost the first thing in the morning, I read the local newspaper to find out the most recent number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 in my county. The daily tabulation belies the pain and tragedies of this pandemic: 145 new cases, no deaths on Monday; 180 new cases, one death on Tuesday; 110 cases, two deaths on Wednesday. Although no names are given for the pandemic’s latest victims, the news reports give their ages and whether they were residents of a senior group home: one in their 70s; one in their 60s; two in their 80s; two of the deceased in a long-term facility.

Almost all the deaths are people over 60, with many in their 80s. Because I’m 71, it feels like death is knocking on doors all around me, that it comes blowing down the streets and paths of my town, skirting the edges of my house. I shut myself in, close the windows, lock the doors and try to turn away. But it’s out there.

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