It’s 4 o’clock of an early spring afternoon and the mood in the kitchen is blue. As Manda and I both stare out the window to the paddock and survey the damage wrought by a spring ice storm we are rendered numb; speechless.
Mother Nature was reckless with her pruning shears. By the light of a full moon her inner were wolf violently slashed and crashed through our area’s tender woodlands and random old trees, leaving in its wake tree carnage as I’ve never before witnessed.
“Why did this have to happen?” Manda sniffs while interlocking her arm through mine. “That old maple was so beautiful and healthy, and now it’s gone.”
I sigh. I don’t really know what to tell her. I could give her the whole El Nino reasoning, but scientific explanations seldom soothe the broken heart. Cold reason does not conjure warm feeling.
“Sweetie, come away from the window and let’s have our tea by the fire.” I take Manda’s soft hand in mine and guide her to the living room where a pot of camomile tea is cosily brewing on an old cedar chest, a family heirloom, that acts as a coffee table. Two cups and saucers and a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies rest beside it. Tea in tea cups always tastes better, for some reason, and I’m trying to instil in her these little niceties for which her parents have no time. They’re lovely people, but always so busy.
Manda slouches into the sofa and Abbey the collie, all fun and fur, jumps up and flops over the unhappy girl’s legs. She rolls onto her back as if she’s not too big to be a lap dog (which she most certainly is) and demands a tummy rub. Manda buries her hand in the dog’s hair and begins the slow back and forth of rubbing the one who has made herself most vulnerable. Abbey groans with approval.
“If you were a colour right now, what would you be?” I ask while pouring tea and observing the gentle scene unfolding before me.
“What kind of a question is that?” Manda snarls.
Hmmm … I don’t need to ask. I know. Black. She’s in one of those rare black moods that distorts thought and reason. A mood that’s particularly challenging when you’re teetering on the teenage years and trying to understand your place in the world. A destructive event like an ice storm is enough to send me over the edge, and I have some life experience. For Manda, my sweet, sensitive tree hugger, there is no sense to what she’s witnessed. Her tender soul is black and blue with grief for the beloved maple snapped in half by a vicious storm. I understand that for now, at least, there can be no consolation.
“Nevermind, love. Here’s your tea. Have a cookie.”
Manda pushes the sated dog to the other end of the sofa and takes the tea cup and saucer roughly from my hand.
“Careful, sweetie!” I protest.
She slides back into her spot and takes the cookie from the saucer. Dunks it in her tea until it’s good and soaked and then takes a bite. Her tea is now, of course, full of crumbs, but she doesn’t seem to care. She sighs, and sips, and sighs some more. I understand this mood.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Whatever’s bothering you.” I don’t want to put words in her mouth. Perhaps there’s something behind the broken tree that’s really at issue here. I want her to feel safe to say so, if there is.
There’s no immediate response. Another sip. A purple sulk, and then a free fall of tears cascading down cheeks reddened by the warmth of the fire. I know she won’t share. She just wants me to hold space. She just wants me to be here to witness her sorrow ~ a sorrow she doesn’t understand; a sorrow for which there are no words; a sorrow for which there is no solace.
I move over to the sofa and wedge my way in between her and Abbey. Take the teacup from Manda’s hand and place it on the chest. And then I hold her while she weeps ~ weeps for the broken willows and birches and maples and pines. Weeps for the little animals and birds who have lost their little homes. Weeps for wanton destruction for which she has no reference in her happy little world.
After several minutes sobs turn into sniffs. I give her a clean tissue from my pocket so she can blow her nose.
“I tell you what,” I try to sound hopeful while hugging her tighter and whisper in her ear, “why don’t we call that fellow who does all the carving of old tree stumps in town and have him create something beautiful out of the maple stump? We can honour its place in our hearts and the joy it gave us with something meaningful.”
Manda leans back and looks at me, desperate for a happy outcome. “We can do that?” she pleads, wide-eyed with wonder.
“Of course!” I confirm. “Don’t you think it would make a wonderful rearing horse? You know, that symbolizes our ability to rise to the challenges that come our way?”
“Oh yes!” Manda sits up straight, her mood brightening as she begins to see a silver lining. “And can we plant a few trees, too? Another maple?”
“Absolutely, sweetie. There’s nothing I’d like more.” I hand her another cookie. “So, may I ask … what colour are you now?”
She smiles. “In the pink!”
That’s my girl.
©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016