Of Trees, My Body, and Joy

I was just at the podiatrist, and while I waited in the exam room, sitting high up on a table, I had a view out the window of a stand of trees. The wind was blowing something—not fierce so much as persistent. In the forefront of this stand of trees, were the group with all their new leaves on them, and the wind was tossing them about and it made me think of two things in rapid succession: First, of the exuberance of young girls wearing flowing skirts for the first time and how they twirl and bend and thrill at the feel of the fabric making them feel bigger and lighter and full of joy.

The second thought was of young women, joining in a circle dance for the benefit of the much taller trees that stood in the middle, but further back. All I could see from the narrow window were the leafless trunks of those trees in the middle. All phallic symbols aside, in my little reverie, they were the men and the young women were dancing for them, full of joy and desire.

And then, as I watched the leaves like skirts, blowing about in the breeze, I began to think back to my own childhood, and being that young girl, infatuated with breezy movement, when the wind would tickle my legs with long grass or the hem of my own skirt. How my body was my own and every day I was kind of excited about what new thing I found it could do. Bend over backwards, yes. Run fast, like the wind, perhaps in my own mind. Skate? Throw a basketball? Twist and bend? yes, yes, yes and yes. All these things. When I finally figured out how to swing my leg up to the crook of the small tree in the side yard, and pull myself up into the tree, I marveled at myself, up there with the big kids who each had a tree of their own, calling to each other like monkeys in the jungle.

And then, I grew up. At what point did I stop marveling at the abilities of my limbs to work in conjunction with each other to propel me up, over and forward. Or even backward. At what point did I lose joy in my body because it wasn’t “her” body. How old was I when self consciousness took over and I lost the ability to even dance like the leaves of the trees.

When I looked at those dancing limbs on the trees, I felt the newness of them. They had only recently unfurled themselves and they had the bright green color of youth about them. Untamed and delighted, they reached for each other as if across a trapeze and I felt myself new again in the watching.

I felt myself engaged in a joy I projected on them and I began to wonder … is it possible to not just project it on them, but feel it for myself? Is it possible, in these days when everything is so … ugly … to reclaim the beauty of a young leaf’s dance and sway in the wind, with the music, under the stars?

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