The Giving Tree

Column 33 Published in the August 16, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

So…he asked me to keep him out of my column. And for the most part, I will honor that request. But some of the things he says and some of the things he does are just too darn funny or so utterly remarkable that I simply must remark.

If only so that the joy they bring remains. And the lessons they impart catch.

My ex and I recommitted five months ago, to each other and to being sober.

We are clear-headed, communicating, co-parenting and doing so with a whole lot of laughter and compassion. It feels amazing. Miraculous. Like another honeymoon phase all over again.

Though we both know sobriety isn’t a magic pill for relationship smooth sailing, it sure has been a booster shot towards that end.

Once, many years ago, he told me that I would never fit in here at The Angle. At the time, I took it as the worst possible insult. I so desperately wanted to be welcomed and to know this life and these people. I threw myself into whatever community cause fell into my lap. It felt right and good, and I had no qualms giving hundreds and hundreds of hours c. I tried to convince myself all the while that it was an altruistic gift, even while my ego was constantly craving praise and validation.

His words seemed a brutal prediction, but I can see now that he wasn’t judging; he was protecting. He recognized my thin skin and soft heart as completely exposed in the fearless way I’ve laid it all out there in my writing, in my giving, in my asking for nothing in return. He knows the way of it here so much better than I ever will.

“Anyone who gets involved here will get burned,” he whispered into my hair as I wept in his arms.

Words like a wasp sting have plagued me for a week – words that implied I steal from the miniscule Angle Days’ budget, that I believe everyone here is a drunk, and that I don’t have this community’s best interests at heart. I gave these untruthful words unwarranted power and they robbed me of my workday smile, took the joy out of an event I cherish and cast a wearying spell that left me planning my escape from The Angle.

But don’t get your hopes up yet, Wasp.

Wrapped in his loving arms once more, I feel a bravado akin to what it took to move here. Just as I have always done, I will say what’s in my heart in the only way I know how – through words on a page. I don’t do confrontation – it only makes me cry. I don’t do gossip – it feels wrong on all fronts. But I do write. And I write with love and full-frontal honesty. I am a woman who has found a bit of her voice, and just like in politics, that scares the bejesus out of those who cling to the old ways and fear change. The first thing change-haters do to women who speak up is attempt to tear them down in any way they can.

But bee stings fade. The pain dissipates. And love returns. Even for those who are not so fond of me.

I love The Angle. I love the people of The Angle. And I don’t do love by sitting down and fading into the background. I’m not afraid to point out patterns that aren’t healthy about something that I love. I’m not afraid to write about unpopular topics that are nonetheless important to who we are as humans and spiritual beings.

Even though I’ve only been here going on five years, I have something to say about this place. But more than anything, a writer simply wants to start a conversation. Please, if you have a response to anything I’ve written, just come talk to me. Or write anonymously to me. Don’t say cruel, baseless things that are bound to get back to me in twisted, worse-off words than how they started.

It’s instances like this that turn the word “small” of our small town into a bad word. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

But it doesn’t have to be like that here. We all have a completely equal opportunity to stand up and get involved. Criticizing those who do is part of our national vernacular, but can’t The Angle be different? Can’t this beautiful and amazing lifestyle prove itself above the mudslinging of everywhere else? I believe it can.

On each trip to and from town, I watch for two specific great white pines and a lone cedar that are marked with large red X’s. One such trip in the future, I will see them no more. They are healthy, beautiful trees older than me by a century, I’d wager, and the thought of their senseless loss gets me emotional. I don’t want to know the ridiculous reason they suddenly need to be cut down. I don’t want to feel the urge to fight a losing battle for them, even though I already do. They are part of this Angle community just like I am and just like everyone and everything else.

I stopped my truck and trailer on one trip home, wrapped my arms around one of the trees and held it, just like my man had held me when The Angle cut me down. I hid my face when people drove by, but yep, that was me, out there on the road hugging a great white pine, my arms not even reaching half-way around. If you had stopped, you’d have seen tears rolling down my face because life and people can be so cruel at times.

And then I moved on.

The tree has given all she had to give as a whole, tall sentry. And now she’ll be cut down, moved along and will give some more in some other form.

And so will I.

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