Thursday, January 23, 2020

JERICHO OLD TIMER OFFERS WISDOM IF YOU CAN FIND HIM.


Within my earlier posting Ideas to connect Family with Nature and Community, I suggested we as a community create a story telling time at the Community Center whereby folks could tell their story – personal true stories, fictional stories, or a blend of the two.

In my post I wrote, We each have a personal story we can share about life in Jericho, our lives; funny stories, sad stories, inspirational stories, stories from the distant past, stories about change, stories about kindness given, and kindness received... Sharing our stories brings us closer together, builds compassion and understanding. Shared laughter is healthy for all.

To sort of break the ice, I have written a story I would like to share with the community – in written word for now, perhaps orated at the community center sometime in the future if we do develop a story telling night.

JERICHO OLD TIMER OFFERS WISDOM 

IF YOU CAN FIND HIM.

A folktale by Bernie Paquette


Walking the dirt roads of Jericho, Vermont, you can find quiet pockets of time seemingly frozen in place. Stretches of solitude can be refreshing – clear the cobwebs, release frustration, calm anxiety. Sometimes, even offer true wisdom. AH, but from whom does one seek this wisdom?

I have often placed my palm flat against a large long-lived tree, seeking to feel the tree’s energy, but mostly to absorb any non verbal wisdom it might somehow pass on to me – perhaps through some sort of osmosis. Generally, I walk away with at least the notion that long-lived trees hold seasoned truths, how else to out distance others for sunlight and soil nutrients, resist diseases and insect attack, to live to a mature age. I walk away, open to the possibility that in some way we humans do not fully understand, other life forms can, and do communicate albeit often upon inattentive or non-comprehending human senses.


Recently a walk along a Jericho dirt road brought me to a most personified tree or at least it was so while I was there in attendance and awe.

Perhaps the image I see in this tree is only in my mind – you can judge that for yourself in the photo or better yet, seek the tree’s counsel in person.

I will not suggest any Carlos Castaneda – Don Juan experience. I did not utilize any psychoactive drugs like peyote or jimson weed, not even marijuana or whiskey. Nor do I think that the tree I reference here is a nagual – a shaman or sorcerer able to change or shift into another form. My experience was a trip, but not one of drug-induced state, but of a more natural, though perhaps unusual conversation of sorts with a normally non-communicative, in human terms anyway, life form – a tree, what remained of a tree.


Now here is the first strange element that struck me upon this encounter. I have walked past this tree too many times to count. Granted there are thousands of trees on this Jericho dirt road, most nondescript, unless one is particularly observant and open to seeing all that is about. Normally on these walks, I find my mind releases toxins and useless concerns; frees up space for creativity, simple joys, magnified senses, and truer listening and seeing. However, I do not expect to meet up with a tree in the same respect as meeting up with an ole Vermonter in front of his barn, deciphering the lean of a hundred year collapse, ninety-eight years in the making.

Yet, somehow, this tree like nearly every other tree I pass is uniquely individualistic, having experienced its own pain, joy, growth spurts, loss of limbs, yearly re-birth. This tree accumulated its own sense of self and an opinion of the world around it. More strikingly this particular tree, gave me pause for its old Vermonter look, growing more personified the longer I stared into its dark black resin eyes.

It was like meeting the ole Vermonter by the barn on Schillhammer road in Jericho. No one I had met before, nor had I knowledge of his residency here. Perhaps he was hermit like, and somewhat typical of old time native Vermonters, not wanting to mix much with flatlanders, or even city folk. His worn, hard worked face, once young and smooth as a fine beech or birch tree, now lined, scared, and darkened from weather, hardships, and life, blended in unnoticed, lost in the similarly weathered barn boards of a barn no longer appreciated for its industry.

Both barn and Vermonter, are wear worn, shorn from sought, lost to the handicap of longevity, translucent for all their past.

So to, perhaps this tree, at first nameless, until now faceless, unknown, unseen, invisible notwithstanding all its character, years of service, and annual change of drabness to flagrant greens, then reds and yellows and oranges.


This tree, which likely bled from deep within its chambers, extols the virtues of human blood donors. It has freely given sweet water, sugar, nutrients – Maple Sap from a summer long production and a winter long storage.

This tree, like the ole Vermonter, performed chores day in, day out - no absences, no complaints. Some years, heavy snows, errant cars, gauged bark; broken limbs from the weight of ice, now more common than in years past. Stature diminished, no longer able to provide herculean arms of shade refreshing leaves or stools for birds and squirrels, and ropes holding up tire swings for children. Sorrow embedded in sapsucker holes, tears dripping not in fluidity of youth and aspiration, but in meandering memories – children’s laughter, young birds chirping with wide-open beaks and yellow throats, red squirrels chattering with scolding twitching tails; wind whispering one minute, howling the next, snowflakes as big as quarters sewed together creating a blanket over shallow roots. Frogs croak, foxes yelp, doves coo, dogs bark (and whiz autographing bark), eagles scream, crows caw, bees hum and buzz, nearby apples drop to the ground with a plump, mosquitoes whine, owls hoot, scream, (and bats) screech at night. All of these sounds and more, the tree has absorbed in wood fiber cells – another kind of storage retained over a generation of days - inscrutable to the casual observer.
 
This tree has steadfastly recorded images of change growing faster every year. No season ever alike, however patterns once similar now dissimilar, exasperating variances stretching the capacity of tolerance, and adaptability against time.

This tree, today, like the ole Vermonter, somehow catches my eye and attention. I know not of this tree any more than the other beech, birch, oak, sumac, pine, spruce, hickory, and other tree families. I knew of their residence here yet not their family history, never mind their individual history, experiences, and or expressions, just as I know there is a whole village of folks in Jericho. I know of their passing in cars and occasionally view their faces along sidewalks and front yards, however not of their stories, livelihoods, passions, interest, accomplishments, fears, hopes, desires. They too occasionally catch my eye, and I wonder if I was able to look down from the sky up high, if I could see and hear their stories, and if I could, would the stars lighten the stage while they shared of themselves. If I embraced them with a long warm hug would we exchange each our learned bits of wisdom, our caring, empathy, kindness, compassion, our joy. Would we better hear and see each other?


Yes, it seemed strange that I had walked past this tree so very many times, having some knowledge of trees here about, yet no connection to this tree, more than any other tree, until this day. Now suddenly this unique individual tree with all of its particular collection of life, long lived, became real for me. No longer did I need to place a palm against bark for a possible intangible transfusion of knowledge.



 Now, within this tree, I could see a personality, a face to match the name, a personified history in long nose, deep dark eyes, thick eyebrows, a chubby roundish pronounced chin, a dimple on his left cheek, old time Vermonter like large ears and a gnarly concentrating forehead beneath a hat covered crown. His mouth is hardly visible but for a small protrusion above his chin.  His girth gives an indication of age that his diminished height no longer can. His arms seem armed and ready to thwart any further diminishment of his stature – resisting the inevitable just as the leaning barn reaches for balance against the pull of gravity. I blush at the errant thought of firewood split and stacked in neat form aberrant of its original shape.

Literally cutoff from the career heights he once attained, no longer able to produce offspring, devoid of industry functioning elements of maple sap, and foliage, nearly limbless, his face draws tight, and his past gilded of facts until history nearly vanishes.

Yet, somehow, in that hard worn, shorn, and nearly lost face, a diaphanous veil allows, for those patient and observant, a look inside. Inside is a deep, deep well of long gathered, accumulated, earned, cherished memories, reflections, and knowledge.  Stories shyly peek at the edges wanting to come out, eager for telling, waiting their hearing.


It is there, with my back resting against his still solid legs and over his feet and toes, that I sat back, closed my eyes, released the last of my cloudy judgments, presumptions, and my overzealous self. I emptied the room of my mind, removed all barriers, cleared a table, poured cups of coffee, and met my neighbor Fred, the ole Vermonter tree whom I had passed countless times, but never before stopped to say hello, never mind learn of his remarkable life of yesteryear as well of that of today. 


The art is not lost, the storytellers are here among us, and the ears of many would very much enjoy hearing enriching and personal stories. We would surely enjoy rides on tales of long ago and not so long ago, from those who tell them well.


Do you have a personal story you would like to share with the community? Drop me a line and perhaps we can find like-minded folks to create a story night at the community center.
View my list of ideas for connecting Family with Nature and Community at http://bit.ly/2lG93ul.

Locally sourced, Organic Jericho Folktale for fun with a hint of serious thought for consideration.


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