Tomorrow is the last day of November, which means Christmas is nigh. I feel an almost overwhelming sense of poignancy at this time of year. There is an air of taking stock where all those mental notes I’ve made to myself throughout the year are checked off or added to next year’s list.
The years. The years just fly by. Looking back on the space of another year it is easy to be self-critical, to view time as wasted rather than appreciated. It is easy to berate yourself for not working hard enough or doing that thing you really wanted to do or not mending something that is still broken.
But the fact is that you lived fully through another year. The ups and downs didn’t conspire to defeat you. There was a remedy for doubts and fears. In spite of everything that happened, hope remained.
At this time of year I miss people more than anything. People who are gone. People who are older than they were. People who aren’t in the places they used to be.
I remember my grandmother making her Christmas fruit cake. How hot the kitchen was with the ovens blazing away all day. How the smell of dried fruit stewing made you swoon. How nice it was to escape outside, even if it was snowing, and stand underneath the trees looking for birds or squirrels, listening to the snow drop from branches like stones in a pool.
I have photographs of the trees in my grandmother’s garden, but they don’t evoke the memories of the old days the way they used to. I can’t hear them. I can’t touch them.
That distressed me at first until I discovered something. Some trees, even those found on the other side of the world, can remind you of the trees that used to be a part of your every day life somewhere else. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking they were the same trees.
They rustle the same. They feel the same. The light filters through them just the way it used to. The swallows swoop and dive all around them.
They look the same.
I don’t need to look at the old photos anymore, battling a wave of unstoppable sadness. I can sit in the park when the wind from the bay fills the air with a gentle freshness and remember. And smile.
Trees have secrets. They know things. Maybe they are all connected, evoking memories as strong as photographs. Maybe they are conduits to the past, raising healing branches to the sky.
Maybe they see all that happens and more. Visible through time.