Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tree Book Chapter 5 - Rhododendron Hammocks, In Which I Learn to Breathe and Dream

When I was about 8 years old, I was uprooted from my elementary school and all the friends I didn’t make along with the wonderful smelly-ink purple dittos we used to love to sniff (you have to be old to understand that one). We moved from our familiar American neighborhood and beloved yellow house with the perfect yard to a great old estate in Wimbledon, England. From the new backyard, whose acres contained a peach orchard, an apple orchard, and two long glass greenhouses, we could see the Wimbledon tennis courts, and hear the balls being hit back and forth along with the rise and fall of the crowd’s reaction.

I was lonely then, and spent hours by myself under the old overgrown bushes that fronted the property. I dug in the soil with a little shovel and was convinced I’d found a buried village when I chanced upon a bunch of old red roof tiles buried deep in the earth. I also uncovered lots of antique bottles--hand-blown, of various colors, which I unearthed and brought into the house for rinsing. They sparkled in the sunlight after decades of burial. I didn’t know their history, or how they got there, only knew they were treasures to me, stacked along my windowsill all clean and shiny in the sun.

On our property grew two very old, huge rhododendron bushes. They were as tall as trees and as wide as a house. Of course, as children do, my little brother and I took our adventurous explorations of the property under the embrace of those beautiful branches—discovering a world dappled in sunshine, fragrant with the years of fallen leaves making a soft underworld that cushioned our bare feet in spring. Outside the flowers blossomed and buzzed with the activity of happy, fluffy bumblebees, and inside we found an oasis of peace, a place to be for a while where nobody knew where we were.

We took sheets from our mother’s linen closets and brought them down the hill and into our sanctuary. Tied them hammock-like and laid in them swinging gently back and forth, talking of all things imaginable.

To me, being in that sundappled sanctuary meant freedom from obligations, a chance to breathe, a chance to dream, cradled in Nature as only she can do, with one of the beloved people in my life.

We spent many hours there, and a part of my soul was born and fed, swinging from the underbranches in the dappled sunshine and wafting, beautiful fragrance of Earth.

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