Somewhere in this density of Willow Tree in my back yard is a Robin’s nest. As you can see, the tree isn’t that tall, perhaps 8 feet now. It’s the kind of tree that I trim each each year, which is then followed by about 12 feet of growth during the year. The nest itself is at eye level. I can’t see it directly without moving branches around, which isn’t mine to do. I know the nest is there because the mom and dad Robins have to hover for a minute above the nest and then drop into it. When they do, I hear the chirping voices of very young birds. It’s fun to hear. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. I’m glad there is this life and wonder so near my back door.
David Wagoner is an American Poet and Novelist. His poem, “Lost” is below. I’ve often returned to this poem, glad for the way he describes the belonging that can be felt in nature and forest. This time reading it’s his lines about trees that stand out to me. “No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to Wren.” They have me in wonder, thinking of the Robins in my yard, in this “known tree.” Wagoner’s lines have me thinking about finding ourselves, sometimes in very dense circumstance.
Lost by David Wagoner
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you. If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.
As a kid, I came from a family that valued not wasting things. This included food — “can’t leave the table until you finish what is on your plate.” My grandparents lived through an economic depression. It was natural that this was part of our family belief system. As an adult with kids of my own, I tried to sell them on “the last bite is always the best.” It worked sometimes. But kids are clever. “My broccoli tank is full, but my desert tank is empty.”
I returned yesterday from a trip to see my daughter and son in-law, new residents of New York. There is a certain tank that feels filled from the time with them, for which I am grateful. I’m not totally sure what that tank is. Feels like lots of things healthy. A “connection to loved ones” tank. A “family playfulness” tank. A “getting to be dad” tank. A “getting to be welcomed” tank. A “getting to give them flowers” tank pictured above, a little artifact to presence the time together for just a bit longer after our parting.
The tank is likely also something even further underneath all of that. I suppose I share all of this because I feel tender with it, cracked open. And I suppose, I’m the kind of person that believes something like that with family can be true with team, and with groups, and with communities. I seek more of the conditions with groups that invite us to be tender together, and cracked open. And filling many tanks together — expanding fields of belonging.
What a gift to be with good people, smart and kind people, exploring even for a moment, life together. What a gift to feel filled. Noticeably. Palpably. And what a gift to do some filling.