Katonah, New York
The trees are silent, frozen in place by last night’s winter. Sunrise creeps—truly, for so much slower does it rise than it sets—over a nearby hill. It bathes them in pseudo-warmth and they bask in it. They bend their limbs, their trunks, their stony wills to this commanding, golden goddess. It feels as if they have done this now, right before my very eyes; woken up and leaned in to this intensely beautiful morning.
Surely they were independent before: last night when their unwitting limbs wallpapered my closed eyelids, yesterday, when snow drizzled through them from a blue-white sky onto my wool coat, and later—when the new year swept me off to Manhattan to bask in my own sunshine: friends old and new, and they stood, stock still, waiting for no one—as if their naked branches lacked for nothing, not even to be clothed by their absent leaves. But now, as I study their curved, tilting trunks, their sun-dappled sway, I realize my error; everything—every one—needs something.
A tiny zephyr picks up the bottom of a single, dry-lingering leaf (One that has forgotten to fly south for the winter?) on a skinny, low-hanging branch. It was only seconds ago that the leaf was fluttering…yet it is unbelievably silent, as if the tree has shushed it; warned it not to make a fuss, not to beckon attention. It is so absent of motion now that I question whether it moved at all. I scan naked tendril after naked tendril for these holdouts. I wonder why they’ve stayed put and I didn’t.
Here I am in Katonah—twenty-eight hundred miles from home—scrunching up my eyes to determine whether what I am looking at now is a small patch of dirty snow or a gray rock plopped in the middle of the icy, brown-green grass at the base of the trees. But this isn’t what I’m wondering, not if I’m honest. I’m asking the question my husband is asking as he sits, without me, in California: Why did she go, he asks. Why am I here, I echo.
The answer hits me as if I am nineteen, as if answers have only started coming, as if I’ve never had answers before—or never asked the right questions. I am here because it is what I need. I am here, snatching at—clawing at is more accurate (yet in a somewhat dignified way, for I am blessed, not only by these stunning surroundings, but also by dazzling intellect and aesthetic perfection)—for some tiny, tentative, unexcavated, frozen piece of me.
I am refusing, with stubborn, unsentimental rights to myself, to fit snugly into my newly stable life. I am leaning, like these stalwart trees, toward this morning’s light: a sun salutation that breaks open my heart, reminds me that sometimes what we need demands no explanation.
Why am I here? Because, like these enchanting trees, I am.