Choices, decisions, blue sky revisions into gray. Live Christmas tree settled into its new hole in the center of the backyard. All by itself at three and ½ feet tall with great expectations of one day rising higher than the fence then towering over the garage. But first its roots will need to expand, stretch, wriggle their way further into the rocky, root soil under the winter grass. When and if it survives and grows and towers, its tips could fill the yard, closing all paths of access to the grapevines and the alley and the garbage cans. How would Miguel mow the grass in the back quarter of the yard? How would we get to the nectarine bounty that returns each year to the tree in the back corner, next to the butterfly bush?
But that’s all years away, right? It takes time to grow, my friend. There’s a pattern and a sequence programed into this tree’s DNA that even plant food can’t replicate, if you get my drift. But it’s the years flying by at super-speed, that I’m seeing here, trailing changes as wisps of clouds or sifting as the smoke from that fire in Angeles National Forest last week that made the sky red and brown and black for a while until it cleared and revealed it’s handiwork of change.
We hadn’t been that direction for days, so when Mother and I drove to church on Sunday, in the beautiful blue sky morning, as we crested the hill where the 57 on-ramp merges into the northbound lanes headed for the 210, I looked to the hills for what the fire had left behind and saw an expanse of black hill like one part of a patchwork quilt, rising between the billowed up greens and browns and yellows of the rest of the rolling hill patches. But what surprised me were the small, scattered here and there across the hills, spots of gray. Bare spots like the hair on a dog has been pulled out at random.
From the church parking lot, closer to the hills, they were even more evident. As we were leaving, I put the bag with our Bibles and study books in the car and waited for Mother to make her way out of the building. Her movement is slower these days, but she still gets there, hair permed and styled and sprayed, purple slacks, flowered blouse of pinks, purples, greens and yellows under a white sweater. Her pinkish-purple lipstick matching her necklace of Sugilite pinkish-purple stones that she loves to wear.
“See those bare, gray spots on the hills,” I said when she got close enough to hear what I was saying.
She stopped walking, steadied herself with her cane and looked up, “Yes.”
“That’s where the fire was spreading from Glendora to Azusa.”
“Oh, it did get close, then, didn’t it?”
We get settled in the car, without hurry as Mother puts her cane in the floor of the back seat, carefully settles herself in the front seat, putting her purse on the floor and tucking the purse strap over the edge of her seat and under her leg.
My thoughts alternate between flying forward in time to seeing myself no longer at this slow-Mother-pace and back to moderating my speed to give Mother time to get where she’s going.
Will I be in this town, live in this house long enough to see that live Christmas tree spread and grow and fly high in its growth in the yard? Mother could live another ten years or die in her sleep tonight. Only God knows. Only God knows the beginning spark of life that wrote the DNA in the tree and the DNA that with time will fill up those gray spots on the hills. He’s the one that will hold Mother’s soul and spirit when the slow life of her DNA takes its last breath. I try to envision the future, to find some comfort in picturing what might come next, but that’s as futile as believing for a certainty that I can tell which side of that Christmas tree in the center of the yard will grow best now that it’s out in the wind and sun and cold and heat.
I long to know my certainty. I need to know. I think life will go on after Mother’s speed has one day slowed to a stop. I want to know my life will go on; at least for a time. I do know my turn to slow to a stop will come. Someday, sometime, somewhere and when that happens, the unchanging constant is that the creator of all DNA will be there and his time does not slow and run out. He continues beyond eternity. After all, since he’s big enough to create DNA, he’s big enough to hold the future. My future. This I know. For a certainty.