With so much to be thankful for, it can be overwhelming when called upon to innumerate all that’s deserving of mention. My heart and eyes swell as I think of my family and friends and pets past and present; of the roofs that have sheltered me, the clothes that have swaddled and warmed me, the food that has nourished me, the books and music and art and education that have enriched me; the good health and wellness that sustain me; the fans and followers and patrons who bolster and inspire me. I am so very thankful for all of these, and more.
But today, as I sit beside a fire in a cozy home in western Maryland, and look out through tall eastern oaks, the calligraphy of their branches etched with fresh snow, I’m feeling particularly grateful for trees.
I miss trees, and I’m reminded of this fact every time I return east. Oh sure, we have trees in New Mexico. But mostly they’re dull shades of drab green: pinon, juniper, Ponderosa, Russian olive. The cottonwoods and aspens are obvious exceptions, and thank goodness for them, for their color — such a contrast to the earth tones from which they spring — are a big part of what makes the landscape of northern New Mexico so enchanting. But for me, the cottonwoods and aspens are all about memory and a certain yearning: The verdancy of their springtime leafing and the gold coinage of their autumn canopy stirs a nostalgia in me that is tapped directly and deeply into the soil of the eastern woods.
I’ve often claimed that while I was born and raised in New Jersey, it was in New Mexico where I found my soul.
Yet, the northeastern landscape will always be Home. Even these twenty years since I moved west, these seven years since the family house was sold, these four years since the death of my father, this shrinking landscape of small green farms and ambling stone walls, of mellow creeks and stands of tawny hardwoods — this is comfort to me; this is familiar. This is Home.
Yesterday after raking dry brown leaves from the lawn and ivy, and piling them in a heap upon an already dense bank of white pine needles, My Man and I lay down upon them. With arms like wings, we ruffled more leaves over us, quilting ourselves in a bed of boughs and leaves. Looking up to the sky through the scramble of barren branches, we watched as a couple of ravens circled high. Sleep came to us easier there on a bed of oak leaves than it has most nights upon a mattress, as did feelings of calm and safety. For then, as today, when I look to these woods and these branches like so many arms widespread, I feel as though I’m looking out to family, as though each tree trunk and limb holds within it an ancestor spirit who’s looking after me.
And I suppose they are.
And for them, especially, I am feeling grateful.