Trees are not Weeds

08/24/2010

Not a pesky weed

Urgency Day 360

500 Things Items 117-141: 5 MEELLION WEEDS!

(Okay, a bit of a stunt to catch up)

  • History: 5! Enormous Bags stuffed with garden suffocating weeds (for reference: Sam’s torso)– that appear as if from nowhere!
  • Value: Zip
  • Parting Pain: My hamstrings are sore from our efforts, but in a good way
  • Un-possessing: $2 blue-sticker per bag and the city whisks them away

Pesky, but not a weed

Do you prefer beginnings or endings?

An entirely unscientific sampling I took suggests most people prefer beginnings, characterizing them as “full of hope and promise,” “a fresh start,” and “endless possibilities.”

Sure, but when I reminded One of the respondents that The Beginning of School is tomorrow and offered to allow him to amend his answer, he stayed firm.

“Definitely beginnings. Change is good. I’m ready.”

Change is good.

But both beginnings and endings bring change. Paradigm shifts and tipping points simply signal a change from one state to another. It’s built in: something ends and something else begins; something begins and something else ends.

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not. Change isn’t inherently one or the other:  it’s just change. It’s what has changed, what has started and what has ended, that needs the sizing up. And that’s all about perception, isn’t it?

Oh lord, is she going to make lemonade?

Paul, Sam and I visited Swarthmore this summer. Tiny, liberal, challenging Swarthmore in Pennsylvania is a great match for Sam who is looking for small, engaging and determinedly liberal somewhere back East. His current college rankings make his parents simultaneously swell with pride and shrink with fear:

  1. Amherst
  2. Yale
  3. Swarthmore
  4. University of Mary Washington

(Still to be visited: Vassar)

The pride-factor should be obvious. The fear? Well, it’s not that we doubt for the tiniest second that Sam is completely qualified and would excel at any of these fine schools. Our fear comes from statistics, admission rates: The first three hover around a 12% admissions rate.

(Quick! Spike the lemonade!)

But as to Swarthmore, specifically. Our campus tour took us past this incredible red-painted— but quite obviously ailing– tree. I assure you, it was not one of many painted trees around the campus; it stood out quite distinctly on the manicured grounds. Our winsome guide explained that it is the tradition at Swarthmore to vividly paint a tree before it is felled to allow the community a chance to honor it. To mark the end of one phase of the tree and the life surrounding it and prepare for a new tree, a new life.

Celebrating an ending and a beginning. I was completely moved by this tradition.

Now I know I’m a bit emotional these days. There is a lot of fluidity in my life which is sometimes expressed fluidly. Even so, I am reduced to a puddle every time I think about this rite. I simply love the idea of the Swarthmore community invested in this simple act of change on their campus. A life doesn’t just disappear one morning, dismissed and unacknowledged. Neither does it remain in a decayed and untenable state.  It is honored and celebrated, and then room is made for new life.

So what, you might ask, do I prefer: beginnings or endings?

Yes.


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One Response to “Trees are not Weeds”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    “There is a lot of fluidity in my life which is sometimes expressed fluidly.” Oh what a beautiful turn of phrase. I expect our next fluid moment (coming the day after labor day) will be expressed very fluidly in our house.
    Go Sam!
    xoxo
    Elizabeth


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