Saturday, July 26, 2008

A downed tree

Life's in an uproar here at the duplex. We don't literally live in a duplex, but our closest neighbors are also some of our closest friends (the friendship preceded and abetted our moving into this house) so other friends began calling us 'the du-plex (we're the Du, they're the Plex).' We're so close in proximity that when they have steaks, Jackson stands at the retaining wall-- nine of ten times there's a bone in his immediate future. We've shared carpenter ants (they moved into the neighborhood via our tent-trailer), lawn waste, such loud parties we've had post-midnight phone conferences about who should call the police first, the smoke of marijuana floating from some house behind them, and of course, kids. Their daughters are some of E's closest friends, and when those 'plex' girls married within 4 months of each other, E was pretty in pink, then purple, attending those brides. We've laughed together: The Beve and Mr. Plex share a lot in common, like the propensity to strike up conversations with anyone, an amazing power to get distracted, and the uncommon but aimed for, ability to laugh at situations and themselves--to not take life too seriously. Mrs. Plex and I envision calling each other in our dotage, looking for two tall men wandering the streets in their robes. We've cried together too--over kids, the church, jobs, our own hopes and failings. We live Body life around here, especially in the summer when we're all outside within shouting distance.

But now we've been struck with another kafuffle. A woman owning the house behind the Plexes has been increasingly insistent that they let her cut down their giant Douglas fir in the corner of their backyard. This tree has cast so much shade into our yard that I've planted an entire shade garden beneath it. It's loomed so broad between us, we never saw the houses on the street behind us. But for them, it's more than the shade for their garden, it's history--their daughters planting it, playing around it. Trees are alive, and sometimes, what they bring into our lives is life as well. Finally, however, after much negotiation, the Plexes gave in, and yesterday we were roused early to the sound of chain saws. By the time I got out there, the trunk was entirely denuded. The Beve said, "I didn't notice the tree, but someone built two houses while we were sleeping!" I was on the other side of the fence (to be punny) from his cheerful attitude. And my good friend,Mrs. Plex? She was all the way over in the sobbing-her-heart-out pasture, calling her husband to "Come fix this!"

Unfortunately, as you know, cut down trees cannot be put back up. We looked at the damage from their yard and ours, cried a little more. Then we talked about how to fill in the gap, how to recreate something that would bring life to that gaping corner of our yards.

But it made me think about all the decisions we make for which there are no 'take-backs' and 'do-overs.' We simply have to live with the consequences. Did the Plexes repent of that decision? Feel real remorse? Absolutely. And God can heal their regrets. But He didn't magically regrow the tree. All the time we do things that are like cutting down this tree. We say things to hurt others, we do something to offend our neighbor. And God forgives us for those things. All the filth within me, He forgives. That's what the cross is about. But sometimes there are cut-down trees that must simply be carted away or made into firewood. Consequences. While we're in this skin, in this world, we have to live with them. I guess the trick is to ask Him to also help us create something new in those gaping corners--to re-shade the garden in a different way. Thankfully He's about this as well.

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