I went out for a skate early this morning. (I occasionally inline skate to break from the monotony of my bike trainer in the spring.) It was a brisk 43 degrees, which is much colder than I usually tolerate for a skate, but I reasoned that I needed the fresh air to clear my muddled head after yesterday’s stinging revelations.
I was skating on a path I have traveled at least a hundred times. Too keep my mind off the numbness settling into my fingers, I made a conscious decision to focus on the landscape today to help me pass the time. I looked around instead of simply looking at the ground ahead of me…an admittedly risky move given my mediocre skating ability. Still, I saw squirrels and rabbits, as well as some mallards hanging out with a few northern shovelers on the ponds.
The path along the South Platte river is populated with multitudinous stands of cottonwood trees. As much as I despise them because of my allergies, I love the cottonwoods because their bark is scaly, thick, and interesting. On the prairie they are a welcome respite from an otherwise shadeless landscape. Unfortunately, being comprised of soft wood, they lose branches fairly easily with rough winds and heavy snows. In the spring, they require a lot of clean up. Today, I noticed that the park rangers had been busy trimming some trees and removing dead limbs. One freshly cut tree stump caught my eye as I skated by. It looked to me like a flower, its chunky bark creating the petals around its center. I made a mental note to go back and photograph it on the return trip.
My mind wandered off as I skated on, thinking about how long that tree had stood there and what it had seen as cyclists, runners, skaters, birders, and families out for strolls happened by over the years. I was sincerely melancholy thinking about the loss of that tree. Then, I thought again about how its stump now looked like a flower. There was beauty in its new state. It had changed, but there was something to appreciate in the change just the same.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” In the ebb and flow of life, the only constant we have is change. Yet, my initial reaction when faced with an adjustment in my life is to cringe rather than soften. I wonder how often I have been so busy mourning the loss of something that I have failed to properly acknowledge the beauty in the new thing that is unfolding itself before me? Yes. That tree had to be cut. It will no longer provide shade with its leaves. Now, though, that tree is a sturdy leaning post. Change isn’t all bad. It’s all in how you look at it.