When I was much younger, I thought of myself as the man in Neil Diamond’s song “Crunchy Granola Suite”: “And like a man with a tiger outside his gate, he not only couldn’t relax but he couldn’t relate.” Happily, my tiger doesn’t come around nearly as much anymore. I’m still pretty much of a recluse, but I am no longer alone. I have the trees – the wind – the sky – to keep me company. Life provides challenges – and life goes on.
Throughout much of my life, I paid little attention to the miracles that surrounded me. I was too busy thinking about business and money – too busy being annoyed by annoying people. Nature and I were perfect strangers. The tiger was always there… relentlessly pacing back and forth outside my gate. I concentrated on him so much that I had no time to think about the real world – the world that matters.
Funny how life plays out. Who would have thought that some of my best friends would turn out to be trees? I know that people often say a dog is man’s best friend, and I like dogs – so long as someone else feeds them, walks them, and, well, does all the rest of the stuff that goes along with having a dog as your best friend. But what I like best about trees is that they take care of themselves – and, unlike dogs, they usually outlive you.
My favorite trees are the seventy-five or so that jut out from the back-left corner of my house at a 45-degree angle, like a perfectly drilled platoon. I visit my leafy pals who shield me from the outside world just about every day. In the slightest breeze, they whisper their secrets to me.
A few weeks ago, my trees were having a special evening. Their leaves were turning multi-shades of gold, brown, and reddish-purple. There was a bit of a chill in the air, and it was as though they were letting me know they were about to pack it in for the winter.
On this fine evening, Ravel’s “Bolero” felt right. I hadn’t played that CD for more than a year, but for some reason my hand pulled it off the shelf. As I watched my trees and listened to the music, I thought about the man who had always had a tiger outside his gate. Then I thought about my new best friends, whispering to me through their fluttering leaves… with Ravel’s “Bolero” capturing their message symphonically.
The magical music also brought to mind Dudley Moore in the classic film 10. Remember Dudley Moore, that funny little English guy with the club foot… obsessed with Bo Derek… and, his ultimate fantasy, ending up in bed with her in the posh Las Hadas Hotel in Manzanillo, Mexico… with Ravel’s “Bolero” playing triumphantly on the soundtrack? How in the world could I have possibly known that less than ten years later I would live in a villa right next door to that very hotel, and that my son would be born in Manzanillo?
Dudley Moore has been dead for more than six years. And Bo Derek, the twenty-three-year-old “10″ in the film is now fifty-two years old, a grown woman fending for herself… her outrageously handsome svengali of a husband, John Derek, having passed on a full decade ago. These wandering thoughts brought a nostalgic smile to my lips, yet, at the same time, made me feel sad about how relentlessly life goes on.
My eyes and thoughts shifted back to the trees. They say that when the days grow shorter, the change of color is nature’s way of telling them to begin preparing for their long winter’s sleep. With less and less water and sunlight for photosynthesis to occur, the fall colors, previously hidden by the leaves’ green chlorophyll, come to the fore and have the opportunity to show off their beauty.
Soon, I thought to myself, most of the trees will be bare and their appearance will once again be somber. Happily they are reborn every spring, live life to the fullest in the summer, enter the twilight of their lives in the fall… then, finally, they seemingly die. But not really. In truth, they merely hibernate. It’s more like recycling than death. Though the trees are dormant, life goes on.
In Part II of this article, I’ll explain why I believe this to be so.