A glimmer in the Trees

By Keith Irwin

Driving along the 405 you can see the tops of the pine trees lining my street.  They must be 60 feet high or so.  It’s unusual to find trees this tall in LA.  Though she is full of many streets with wonderful and beautiful varieties, most are only a few stories tall and not observable from more than a couple of blocks away.  I often imagine Los Angeles with taller trees.  What if they were 10 feet taller?  20 feet or more?  I think about all the extra shade they would provide and how much more beautiful the city would be.   Imagine what she would look like flying into LAX.  Having grown up on the east coast, the plants here still have a feel of a tropical vacation for me.  Florida like.  These trees, however, remind me of home.  Each side of my street has 20 or so of these giant pines, distinct in their appearance while holding a similar conical form.  Some are spread much wider than others.  The dark green needles vary a bit depending on the health of the tree but it’s a sea of green through and through.  I’ve spent a lot of time parked on the street, staring down at them all. I like to observe the space in between them and the distance from me to them.  And there is so much light from all around, piercing through the leaves and branches, that it allows me to experience the colors and patterns in never-ending ways.  So much to see.  I am taken aback with it all and often imagine myself further down among the trees and up in the canopy.  I like to focus on a particular one and then envision myself floating there among the branches looking at the trees in front of me and those behind me; at those from side to side and all around.   So i know these trees pretty well. Well I thought i did.

I sat in the lawn chair at the edge of the garage looking out past our towering pine.  We have one of the more magnificent ones.  I’ve observed rather large-bodied spiders with long nimble legs, spinning their webs and moving about with precision and ease while suspended midair below a branch.   I’ve seen the squirrels run about and leap to and from the trunks in a splayed out and powerful way that sometimes makes me wish I were one too so that I could move like that.  Neighborhood dogs often chase them.   When the crows are not marching across the ground in a domineering way they can often be found hopping from treetop to treetop.  When I’m lucky and spot them, I like to observe from afar and imagine how much fun it would be to join them.  The sky was gray that day.  Overcast. Typical for an April afternoon.  The air was comfortable.  Not warm.  Not cool.  My shorts and tee shirt were just right.  To my left i noticed the brilliant purple of a patch of flowers rising up high from the ground.  I don’t know their name but they’re lovely and have long elegant petals on a long stem that bends a bit at the top from their weight.  I don’t think i had once noticed them bloom in the 5 years I had been here.   How had I not seen them bloom before?  It is a similar thing with the white lilies in the backyard.   There are two large plants that fan out nicely about 3 feet in height, standing guard before a latticed wood fence.   At some point this year they bloomed.  They had truly never done that before or so I was told.  Or none had any recollection.  But the purple flowers were different.  I hadn’t noticed them.  I gazed out across the street, my eyes peering through some branches staring off in the distance.  It was in that space i saw it.   I felt excitement rise in my body.  A rush of energy filled me, rising up my spine and the back of my neck into the top of my head.  A full charge.  I thought my eyes deceived me and wondered if I had stumbled upon something magical.   What is that?  It looked like a window in time or something fantastical.  Is that a magic door?  That’s how bizarre it seemed to me.  It was so bright.  So green.  So iridescent.   More like chartreuse.   My brother once had a chartreuse colored shirt, back in the new wave days of the 1980s, that he had bought at Le Chalet; a Canadian fashion shop at the mall.  It was like that color.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  What was i seeing?  Was i gazing through into another dimension?  I recalled The Golden Compass book series in which the heroine and others had special knives that could slice into other worlds to escape or seek adventure.  That thrill was running through me.  It was surreal and my excitement got stronger.  I kept squinting my eyes to try to make it out or get some sort of confirmation.  I had to get closer to see because it didn’t make any sense.  How perplexing.  I was only about 15 feet away; seated on the vinyl cushion and quite comfortable there.  But with the excitement of the moment I sprang up to advance toward this mysterious treasure.  With the first few steps I was still in awe and bewilderment as I tried to focus on it.  It was nestled among the usual branches I had so often seen but it stood out like a sore thumb.  It seemed to glisten and appeared shiny.  Almost sparkly and completely out of place.   Another step or two and I began to see it fully though the awe and confusion remained.  I couldn’t make out what I was seeing.  I edged forward with each foot and then it became clear to me.  It was a baby pinecone.  A baby pinecone!  A bud coming into life, only it was already about 3 inches in length and beautifully fattened with the recognizable crisscross pattern.  Diamond like geometries lay on top of each other.  It looked so dense and full of life.  Solid and massive in its tiny presence.  I could feel the energy inside it pressuring outward and up.  I was still a bit starstruck and my mind struggled to take it in.  Had i ever seen a baby pinecone?  No.  What joy.  I couldn’t recall another time in my life having seen one.  I only knew pinecones as brown, hard and old looking, almost brittle like and tough and chewy with a bit of give to them.  Durable through and through yet uninteresting to me for most of my life.  Yet there it was perched in the tree.  A baby pinecone.  This brilliant little flowering bud bursting into the world.  It was so fascinating and beautiful and glistened with a bit of sap strewn along the side like a sash.   How is it I had never seen one before?  I pulled my gaze back as I turned my head and looked up and around at the neighboring branches; above, to the right, to the left.  Lo and behold there were other ones growing all about, nestled atop branches like fat little forest creatures looking down at me.  Playful yet holy and inviting me to bear witness.  It felt sacred.  What a sight it was to behold.  I felt much joy and peace in that moment and carried the wonder and awe for some time. 

It was several weeks later, perhaps a month or a more, while leaving the house and noticing the trees in the distance that I recalled that pinecones represent the pineal gland.  How had I not thought of this before?  It seemed so obvious now, glaring at me right in the face.  It was then it dawned on me.  I had been changing.  My relationship with the world had been changing.  It was fresh and new.  As i let go of old stories and freed my mind and body so too were my shackles falling away.  I was noticeably different than a few months ago.  Like the pinecones, I was growing.  What a gift to have them on my journey.   It was like God had unzipped this world, reached in and placed them here right in front of me on my tree.  A loving affirmation of my path.  My unique treasure.  The really interesting part is that the neighbor’s tree didn’t have any pinecones growing on it.  I looked across the driveway next door and squinted at it.  I didn’t see any.  I took a few paces to get closer and still i didn’t see any.  I then walked a bit down the sidewalk in front of that house to get a look from another angle and still i didn’t see any.   I wondered if the other trees had any.  As i walked further down the pavement i looked up and around in the trees but I didn’t find any.  I kept walking and searching but didn’t see any.  I passed tree after tree as I passed house after house.  Still not a sign of any cones.  I reached the end of the block and wondered if they were only on my tree?  Is that possible?  I crossed to the other side of the street and inspected the first tree.  No baby cones.  Turning to the left I started to walk back and approached the next tree.  I couldn’t see any and as I got closer confirmed there were none.  I continued along, passing each house and each tree, getting closer to home and still there were none.  I felt a strange mix of peace and ease fill me.   What a gift.  When I finished inspecting all the trees and found no others with these baby pine cones I returned once more to those in my tree.  My little angelic friends stood staring down from above.  I received them.

About Author: Keith Irwin is Joan’s students, who benefited a lot from many One on Ones, Money is Love classes, and Movement Feedback classes.

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