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Kathy Bradley - Dancing with the scars
Kathy Bradley
Kathy Bradley

    The saw-tooth oaks in the back yard, the ones that started out as knee-high, pinky-sized saplings, tower over me now. They move in the breeze like crinolined ball gowns, all hip-swaying, bodice-gripping green chiffon. Their widest branches reach out curving, almost touching, debutantes holding hands before their names are called. They look like Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue, all insolent and saucy, dangerously aware of their beauty and its seductive power. And, because there are two, the Tarleton twins don't have to fight. There is plenty to go around.
    They are not inconspicuous. I notice them every day. In the morning as I leave, in the evening as I return. In sunrise light the dewdrops on their leaves are sequins. In the gloaming the dew is gone and the leaves' thin veins are embroidery on smooth velvet. Bookends. A matched set.
    Except, of course, they are not matched. If you look closely, take a peek up under the skirts of green leaves, you will see that one trunk is straight and true, and its branches radiate out like bicycle spokes in orderly tiers. The other trunk is actually two conjoined trunks, one doing its best to grow straight and true and one growing away at a 45-degree angle as though afraid it might get cooties from unwanted contact.
    The result is that the aberrant trunk, and its branches monopolize one entire side of the tree. If I saw it off — an act I have contemplated more than once — the tree will be, if not ugly, at least not as beautiful as before. Misshapened and bald on one side. More Suellen or Carreen than Scarlett.
    Perhaps, in time, new branches will grow from the remaining trunk. Perhaps, in time, the emptiness will be filled, the saw-scar healed, the severed trunk forgotten.
    But there is also the possibility that the trunks cannot survive without each other. That the trunk with good posture, excellent dancing skills and natural flirtation abilities needs the off-center trunk for something essential. Like balance.
    Thus I have been living with, observing and contemplating the saw-tooth oaks. To trim or not to trim, that is the question.
    And now it is Easter. Or very nearly. I get out of the car, but stop on my way inside, still weighted down with purse and gym bag and the day's detritus, to absorb the sensory bombardment. A line of bright red lilies stand straight as the Royal British Guards. The verbena at the corner of the deck is a broad swipe of brilliant purple, pouring over the edges of its bed like a waterfall. The basil and mint and thyme, the parsley and sage and cilantro are filling their pots and the air. The chinaberry tree's pale lavender blooms mingle with the golden berries from autumn that, in the mild winter, have refused to fall.
    I try to ignore the oak trees — the one so perfect in shape it could be a tree stencil and the other with its extra off-kilter trunk. I try not to look their way and be drawn back to my dilemma. I am unsuccessful. The breeze that has set the wind chime to singing has set the trees to dancing and from the corner of my eye I can see them — swaying and waving, bouncing and bobbing, nodding at each other.
    And in that moment I know.
    My friend, Lynn, loves to watch "Dancing With The Stars." She is mesmerized by the intricately choreographed movements of the quick-step and the foxtrot, the bold athleticism of the mambo, the gracefulness of the waltz. And she loves the shiny, sparkly, spangly costumes, especially the shoes.
    But she knows that shine and sparkle and spangle are not required. And so she dances at every opportunity. In flip flops and bedroom shoes. In bare feet. In a bathrobe. With other people, with her cat, alone. She dances, because dance is what we Easter-celebrants call "an outward manifestation of an inward grace."
    I set down the purse, the gym bag, the burden. There is no perfect tree and imperfect tree. There is only tree. There is no part and whole. There is only holy.
    Not to trim, that is the answer.

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