Friday, May 25, 2012

Airborne Trees

A sudden wind sends the maple samaras twirling out of the trees, the air abruptly filling with a squadron of gently descending helicopters, and my children run among them, looking up, laughing, their arms outstretched. As I stand at the kitchen window watching those silvery whirligigs glimmering in the yard, I think about writing.

Writing is like trying to capture in words that sudden launch, that complex spiral motion downward, each story or essay attempting to freeze that corkscrewing fall to earth, and yet the effort is doomed to fail every time, doomed to incompletion, inadequacy, because the words can never be the thing itself, the captivating whirlybird loved by children, but the words are what I have, and the words are what will remain—and so I will continue to write, and to fail, and to write again. I will continue to chase samaras.

But just look at the children: how they run and laugh among the twirling dancers released by the trees, as though this tender rain of samaras exists entirely for their joy. For them, a samara is a word and a word is a samara; for them, these maple fruits are the very keys to their existence, unlocking something from their hearts for which there need to be no words—and, indeed, there are no words.

Meanwhile, I stand in the kitchen and calculate, trying to find the words. Always, I am seeking the words, while my children chase samaras all over the yard, with their very motions asking: where will they land and what will they become and how can we be involved in their journeys? Perhaps they recognize better than I that this moment, though commonplace, is a miracle: this moment at the inception of its life when a tree, that most earthbound life form, is airborne.

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