At the end of December, you arrive one morning to find that the silk cotton tree has started blooming. Far up above in the canopy, small orange flowers against the blue sky. Which means it's been a year since you first started visiting this tree. What a year it has been. And what a ritual this has been. The only constant that has grounded you through upheavals, shocks, surges of delight, joy, lightness, heaviness... and as always an endless return to humility.
A thread of visits running through the calendar, linking month to month, preserving what remained constant within you through it all. Or did it? Are you the same person?
The next time you visit the tree, the cement platform is full of dry flowers, beautiful even in their death. The leaves are also drying up and the tree more and more bare. It's January, and time for the annual ritual of the rain trees revealing the water-like flow of their bare branches into the blue blue sky. You wait for it all year and never fail to be moved every single time. You stand looking up and weep for the sheer beauty of it all.
Having spent countless hours at the eye doctor's and hospitals since November, you are more grateful than ever for vision. For being allowed to see all this. You were destroyed, beaten down to your knees. And born again, from the sudden overwhelming submerging fear of blindness to everyday gratitude for the light.
Your visits to the silk cotton tree have an urgency that you have never known before. Every moment of beauty is to be taken with devotion, as holy sacrament, on your knees. As for the rest, you just have to get on with it. You work with the clay you are given. You play with the cards you are dealt. You get a grip and move on. You must go with the flow, like the silent trees with their fluid changes, adapting quietly to the unexpected. You repeat this to yourself, again and again. You know you will forget, your fallibility your only certainty.
February and the pink tabebuias burst into bloom, one month early.The kite nests are clearly visible across the bare branches of the silk cotton tree. You can now see them circling above against the sky, minus the thick canopy of leaves. A barbet couple once allows you to lie down and watch them, while they feed their young in a small hole on a branch very close to you. The trust of living creatures.
You have started drawing in a small notebook during your visits. As an act of meditation. Attention is meditation, and also an opening of the eyes. You are amazed at how much more you notice when you try to draw. Every single curve of a leaf, every serrated edge, every turn of colour, every spot, every vein. And for the first time you notice the wrinkles at every single place where the branches join the trunk on the silk cotton tree. Why hadn't you noticed it before, after looking at it for one year?
One more person you know succumbs to cancer. A young life. You remember sitting by the remains of a young cousin brother, the first time unnatural death came to your family.
"...And in Sanskrit there is a phrase,
a phrase to carry with you
wherever you go:
everything is food.
Every last thing." *
You do not believe that everything happens for the best. Losing a child cannot be for the best. But yes, everything is food for our transformation. We are never the same again.
All around you nature is changing on a daily basis, this season just takes your breath away. The yellow tabebuias bursting into bloom. The mahogany losing its leaves, its pods bursting open to allow its winged seeds to twirl to the ground. The copper pod laying out its yellow carpets, melting your frowns into smiles. All night the trees are working hard, and are changed by the next morning. Every morning you meet a new tree. Spring, at every corner.
And then the ordinary commonplace Hongai starts its annual transformation into the most breathtaking thing in the city, with its translucent red and pale green leaves, letting the light through, every vein revealed with an aching clarity that wounds you while it fills you with joy. The sheer vulnerability of it, so like our own. You watch the short-lived magic while it lasts, and while you last.
That you are allowed such beauty. That so much has been taken away from you. And so much given.
Sarvam Annam. Everything is food. Every last thing.
The full series here: http://whiletheworldisgoingplaces.blogspot.in/search/label/Notes_from_a_Ritual
* Teddy Macker, poem here.