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Myth of the flying tree
Kathy Bradley NEW_052022.jpg

The morning after the night when the rain on the metal roof woke me from a semi-solid sleep, I got up to find a limb dangling from within the sycamore tree that stretches across a significant portion of my backyard. Not much to notice, really. Sycamore trees, at least in my experience, are particularly susceptible to wind and rain, their tender branches, like hearts, are easily broken.

But there was something jarring about the image framed by the windows in my bedroom. It was a “what’s wrong with this picture” puzzle and I couldn’t tell, at first, what that something was. I dismissed the thought and made a note to get outside before it got too hot and drag the limb away.

Later, after it had gotten too hot – because these days any time after seven in the morning is too hot — I went outside. The limb was probably eight to 10 feet long and was hanging with its amputation pointed up and the attached branches and leaves pointing toward the ground as though it was a spear tossed from the sky.

I walked around and around the grass-bare circle under the tree, searching for the place from which the spear had broken and found nothing. Perplexed and wondering just how bad my eyesight had become that I could not see the large empty spot in the foliage that had to exist as a result of the limb’s breaking, the puzzle solution came to me: All the leaves on the limb were completely, crackly brown. The broken limb did not belong to my tree. It had been severed from some other tree, at least four or five days earlier.

If that was the case — and it did seem to be the only solution — from whence had it come? And what in the world had it looked like flying through the night like a missile?

I managed to wrest the limb from the live ones cradling it, realizing only after I’d begun pulling and twisting how heavy it was, and, when it was finally free, left it lying in repose in the bright sunshine and devilish heat that would soon drain it of any remaining moisture and make it easier to drag away.

It is still there, the alternating waves of extreme heat and sporadic rain standing in the way of any attempts at removal. Whenever I glance out the window or walk outside to water the hydrangeas or fill Owen’s water dish, I’m confronted with the mystery. I’d like to know the whole story.

But at the same time I don’t. Like the recently destroyed Guide Stones in Elberton, the creation of a myth (or several) around its origin and the manner in which it found its way to me has been a fun occupation. And the questions to which it has given rise have, even unanswered, anchored me yet again in the knowledge that nature is not erratic or chaotic, is anything but disorderly. Hurricanes and tornadoes, floods and droughts, wildfires and melting glaciers have consistent and predictable patterns and designs, even if sometimes they are too long, too broad, too mystical to see.

I am grateful that the limb didn’t hit the house in its flight through the darkness. I am equally grateful — perhaps even more so — that the limb came, silently and invisibly, with its reminder that I am small and I live in a universe big enough to include both my flying tree and galaxy cluster SMACS 0723.

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