This afternoon I’m sitting in a coffee shop on NE Fremont, where the streets (like many in Portland) are lined with trees. The various colors add to the beauty of this neighborhood and offer shade from the summertime rays beating down. My spot by the window provides the perfect amount of sunshine thanks to the branches stretched out above me.
Its been a while since high school science classes so I have no idea how old these trees are. They might be still “children” with lots of growth ahead of them and change as their branches reach higher. Or perhaps they have been here for decades as the city street modified around them, and they patiently wait for these humans to calm down already. Purple-leafed trees stand out among the pack, demanding attention when every direction includes at least three trees in view.
From a distance, such as a sidewalk and windowsill, these trees appear like completed pieces of art. Thousands of leaves offer shade below. A network of branches reaches every direction and back again. And a sturdy trunk is ready for any child to climb or dog to sniff. They look done.
And then I step closer and see what’s happening when the tree is not part of the background but at my fingertips. Then pieces of bark are seen as peeling away. Leaves are scattered on the ground and some even resting on branches, waiting for a breeze to send them to flight. And branches have been cut off to protect an electric line or bedroom window. The tree is far from done. Its in progress…just like me.
Last week was the graduation ceremony for my Ph.D. in higher education. I stood on a stage for seven minutes to summarize the work that took me two years and 257 pages to complete (plus three years of coursework before that). I wore a beautiful dress from a friend’s shop and silver heels that had me so nervous about falling off the stage. Later in the ceremony, I stood with nine other graduates in our caps and gowns to be hooded and declared “Doctor.” It was a moment I had watched many times before. Those other graduates seemed so poised and wise. I only hoped that I would have those qualities when it was my turn.
I’m happy to say that I did not fall up or down any stairs on graduation day (but there were two very close calls). And my speech went very well (I even watched the video later without cringing). So poised I pulled off. As far as wise, I think the wisdom is in realizing how not done I am.
#52sparks is my year-long writing series based on an art prompt challenge. The title is inspired by a quote from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron). The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. So just imagine what hundreds of inches and words can do.