Eight Pieces: A Single Tree


The best days happened when she stayed at the casita. Sunlight poured across the cleared jungle and over her south-facing front porch.


When she was two or three, she played in dappled sun beneath an oak tree. She hadn’t known the word “lonely” then; her playmates were acorns, sun shafts, and crinkled brown leaves.

She hadn’t known loneliness until she’d been married for a decade. These last twenty years, the ache had become habit.


For a moment, she forgot the meaning of the word “lonely” now, for the sunlight, the sunlight, the pouring warmth, the comfort, the yellow, echoed in the rising blooms of the kitinche tree outside the mission chapel, the sunlight spread into all, and into her, as well. And she wasn’t lonely, she was alone. She was all one.


She rested in solitude.


That particular ache would never be filled, the one that stirred when they stopped listening to each other. He would never listen to her again. She could never listen to him. That option had closed.

But she didn’t have to hold onto that ache. Though it had become habit, it could be unlearned.


When they got married, she thought, “I will never be lonely again.” She would always have someone to listen to her, and someone to listen to. She’d stopped listening first, she realized. It was because it was the same thing. And he held a snobbery behind his socialism. He scorned those who wanted to buy things. That’s what had made her stop listening.

“Look at those little rats,” he said, as they passed Walmart driving to the university. “Scurrying to the cellar for crumbs! Hurry, little scruff-bums! Scurry! Scurry! The sale is ending! Get your plastic bags! You can’t live without ten bottles of dishwashing soap! Buy it! Buy it all! Buy it fast! We’re selling out!”

She looked out the window to see a young mom holding her son’s hand.

Besides, rats were graceful, intelligent, resourceful creatures. First, you don’t criticize other people, especially when they have to work hard simply to establish a comfortable life. He didn’t know struggle. And second, what would ever cause one to think that another creature, another living being, would be something to be used for an insult? What does this say about how he perceives other living creatures?

She tried to get past that day, for it was still early enough in their marriage that their ritual of jokes and what she liked to refer to as their “herd chatter” served to maintain their bonds. But then, not long after, he stopped listening.

“I took a long walk during lunch break today,” she said on an early spring evening. “The dogwoods are blooming–have you noticed? And when I rounded the admin building, I caught the sun, shining through a storm of petals! It looked magical! Like the fabric that was the petal had become filled with something so pure, so beautiful! Like liquid love.”

But he had turned away and was washing his hands. And after he dried them on a towel–she still remembered, it was that red checkered towel her grandmother had given them two Christmases before–he left the room. Her eager speech rattled through her mind and settled below her larynx in a hard knot.

She had thought once that when you were married, you always had someone who would listen to your innermost thoughts, and that was what loneliness was: the discovery that this wasn’t so.

The kitinche tree rose its golden branches towards the late afternoon sun.


It stood, alone, by the chapel door.

If she were a young girl on her way to Mass, she would look up at it.

Let me lift my face to the light, too! She would sing to it, “O holy, holy! Bathed in sun! O holy, holy! Solitary one!”

She didn’t feel lonely when she painted. She felt alone. All one. The thoughts, the feelings, the tiny moment that opened into the immense expanse of life! It all poured out onto her canvas.

One chapel. One bell. One door. One tree. One me.


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Wonder 27



Charlie seems to have no idea that he’s the type of guy that girls find cute.

I’m his mom, so of course I’ve always thought he was the cutest thing. I love to tease him just so I can see that lop-sided grin of his.


But I’m not the only one who thinks he’s cute. Since his club has been meeting at our place, I’ve been watching the kids in the club, one of them, in particular.

Miranda’s known Charlie since they were little. He met her one day when he took an adventure all by himself to the park. Later, she transferred to his school, and they’ve become good friends.

She lights up whenever Charlie’s around.

I hope she’s not picking up signals that aren’t really signals. Charlie’s so friendly with everyone that he makes people feel special when he talks to them. I can’t tell by watching them if he thinks she’s more special or if he feels she’s regular special.

Either way, it’s pretty clear that she feels he’s most special.


She’s a beautiful young woman.

When I watch Charlie, Yuki, and Miranda meditating together, I wonder what they’re feeling. Are they thinking of each other? Do they feel connected through a shared sense of peace? Charlie looks blissed-out.

I probably shouldn’t feel envious of my kid, but I do. There are times when I see him express a feeling of integration or wholeness, and I think what I wouldn’t give to feel like that.


“The energy of creativity is free,” he was telling Yuki and Hugo. I was drawn to his words, even though I didn’t agree. I’d been facing a writer’s block recently with a poetry collection I was preparing for publication. The form was fine–both on the individual level of each poem and on the composite level of the entire collection. But the essence was missing. My images were falling flat, and every symbol felt trite. I felt dry, and my words were sand.

“The energy of creativity is all around us!” Charlie continued. “In fact, it’s energy! Close your eyes, feel that movement–what is that? That’s life! That’s creativity!”


Yuki and Hugo didn’t look like they were buying it. I couldn’t seem to grasp it, either, though I wanted to.

I started thinking of objections: life flows around and through us, but how do we express it through our work? How do I sit down and write a poem that says something unique about the experience of being alive, without becoming trite?

What keeps Charlie’s insights from being common drivel, platitudes that express only emptiness?


Later, he and Miranda were talking. It’s Charlie’s sincerity that keeps his words from being empty, I saw. He may not have the vocabulary to express what he experiences, but everything he says comes from something he knows, something he’s discovered through feeling, intuition, sensing, being, or exploration.

Miranda seems to get him. I felt a sudden pang watching her smile in understanding as he was talking about patterns of movement that repeat through energetic pulse, music, color perception, breath, brain wave. The type of unity he described is so beyond anything I have ever experienced, let alone conceived of, and he described it as if it were his native language. Where has this boy come from? Has he always had these thoughts, and did he keep them inside of him until he met the right people that he could share them with? This boy, what universes exist within him that I will never be able to join?


Something shifted in me with that realization–it was as if the block slid aside, and words tumbled out. I knew where my poems wanted to go.



We started as one–
this I get.
That breath we shared, same pulse, same blood.
The pain is simply
the separation
of one into

Centrioles move to opposing poles.
The nucleolus disappears.

You will be moving soon,
somewhere away.
I am preparing.

Go, boy.
Leave me to steel myself
for the mitosis
of my heart.

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