Ghost Forest

My parents backyard backs onto an acre of a sparse and symmetrical little walnut forest. Private and serene, the backyard has always been a place to escape and sit in peace with Mother Nature. For nearly half my life, I’ve been going into that backyard in practically every type of emotion you could imagine, speaking to those trees through tears, happiness and fear.

I’ve cried to them, sang to them, wrote with them, waited, wondered, daydreamt and thought about nothing at all with them. There’s not a lot about me that those trees don’t know.

It’s funny to think about it now, how much time I’d actually spent just spending time in that backyard, or how many people I’ve shared it with over the years.

In my eyes, trees are just as much living beings as humans. They have a soul and a spirit, with their own paths, purposes and destinies. Consequently, over the years these trees had become some of my closest friends. In fact, I couldn’t think of many other people I felt I could be myself with as much as when I was with the Walnuts.

Last summer, my parents received news that within a years time, the small Walnut Forest would be cleared in order to build a cramped cul-de-sac of retirement homes. It’s been about a year since they got that fateful letter in the mail, and I’m sure you can imagine where the story leads to next.

The first time I saw the trees laid on the ground was in a Facebook video, I wasn’t there for the actual cutting-down. When I heard the snapping of the wood and the thud of the tree landing on the grass, my heart sank and my eyes instantly welled up with tears. A lump was stuck in my throat, and I felt like I had lost one of my oldest, truest friends.

When I saw the trees on the ground for the first time in person, it made me feel even smaller than when I stood underneath them in their shade. I felt almost more connected to them than when they stood above me, tall and full of life. I guess I can admit, that I didn’t realize how connected I was to them, or how much I appreciated them, until they were already gone.

And so goes life. Humans so easily forget to appreciate the things that mean most to them, and so often take things for granted. It isn’t until something lay lifeless or broken on the ground that they realize how much that something meant to them, when it’s too late.

Losing the Walnuts not only taught me a lesson in taking things for granted, but it also taught me a lesson about the spirit of things.

Although the trees are now long gone, and only sun-dried stumps remain in a Walnut graveyard, I can still feel an energy and spirit when I walk into my parents backyard. Their memories are there…their spirits are still there. Just like the people who have sat back there with me who are now gone, or the albums that I’ve played of musicians since passed, a spirit still lingers in the memories and place where they once stood.

There is a spirit in all things in the natural world, and we can visit these spirits whenever we wish whether the body of that spirit is still there or not. It’s not as good as enjoying the trees when they still stood, but if I close my eyes and remember the time I spent with them I can still feel the warmth of their spirit.

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