Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Sense of Place ~ A Family of Friends

 {Signs of Spring} 
Preparing for this years growth. 

The scientist in me has always loved finding new ways to measure things and watch them grow. I can still remember when I was a little girl and I learned that trees grew a new ring each year so you could easily count them to tell how old a tree was when it was cut down. I was astounded and intrigued that something in nature could document the passage of time in such a simple yet perfect way.  I would picture the trees around me - the small ones and the big - and wonder what their rings looked like inside.  I was equally fascinated when I learned (much later in life) that you can also look at a trees branches to measure its growth using the terminal bud scars on the twigs to gauge the age on a living tree.

When climate change first came into the news I heard about dendrochronology, the science that studies growth rings. I am amazed that we can look at the rings of a tree and literally see how it weathered the climate and environment it lived in through the years.  In essence trees harbor the story of their lives in their cross section. You can tell whether there were times of stress or periods of optimal conditions, just by looking at the ring from that year. I find this particularly intriguing right now because I have been thinking a lot about how we archive our human lives. How we internalize the joys and the sorrows that we each carry as a testament of our personal growth.  How we hold them as memories inside our souls.

As a family, our last year in particular has harbored some of the greatest "droughts and downpours" alongside some of the most "optimum conditions for growth" I have ever experienced in my life. Undoubtedly one of the biggest peaks we experienced was the move to this house.  Michael and I knew when we found this home that we had finally found a place for our family to grow and flourish through the years. One of the first things we did when we moved in was begin to identify the trees on our property. Perhaps I was drawn to do this first because, like these trees, I have finally found myself rooted to one place. I love the fact the boys are forming childhood memories here, and in them this is the place that signifies home.  I hope that it is somewhere they can find comfort and wonder as they develop their own sense of place and begin to figure out who they are in this life.

One thing that our new found sense of place has helped us realize, is the fact that we needed to find a "new family tree!"

Let me explain. I found a way to combine my love of both nature and photography (and my hope to document the experience of our lives) in a tradition of taking pictures by a tree I affectionately started to call, "our family tree." This actually started before Miles was born because Michael and I took the first "family photo" while we were still "Patiently Waiting" to become parents.
November 2009 - waiting for baby #1.

 October 2011 - waiting for baby #2

March 2012 - The Triant Quartet
Our last family photo at this magnificent tree was taken over a year ago now.  Sadly, we realized that because our two boys keep us so busy, and we spend most of our free time exploring the land closer to our new home, we have not made it back to "our tree."  Instead of worrying about the fact that we will not have an image to document our change in growth over the year, we decided to make another change. Last weekend we found a "new family tree." 

The March skies were blue and the air was crisp; it seemed the perfect day to go out and find a new place to take our family photo!

March 2013 - "Our New Family Tree"
We have watched this old oak change from a distance as we have walked the trails of this park. Up close, as I looked through the viewfinder, it seemed to be the right place for our photo. I can already imagine how the backdrop will change through the seasons and over the years.  Although I am sad to say goodbye to our old tree, I know that this new one signifies our new found sense of place. It is truly the place that we will grow roots; and along with our boys continue to learn, and grow, and change.  Together we will experience the "environment and the climate" that will shape the years of our lives. Together we will imprint them in the form of memories into our souls ~ all the while the trees around us will be growing new rings to record each year.

March 2013 - Playing near our new tree.

Hikers - (with our tree in the background).

The story continues because I want to share the really special fact that we have dear friends on the other side of the world that have also used photos to record their changes over the years. (Side note: Please excuse the fact that out of habit, almost every time I mention them, I cannot help but refer to them without saying "dear friends" as part of the introduction - because we are truly blessed to share such a connected bond from so very far away <3)

In South Africa, early on in the pregnancy, Vanessa and Sean took one of their first "family photos" beside a bench near the ocean.
They returned months later when the waiting for baby was almost over!
February 2013
Recently they converged on the same bench and took another picture - this time with Aidan on the outside! Vanessa made the comment that Aidan was the one showing his belly in this photo; something that happened by accident, but seemed perfectly fitting! I adore the fact that this beautiful family has also been documenting their growth from a place that they love. It seems especially appropriate that their backdrop is the ocean. They make their home in one of the loveliest ocean side villages I have ever seen, and the sea is a constant presence in their lives.

Like the tides behind them, their lives - (like all of ours) are certain to ebb and flow. There will be times that the sands will shift!  Evidenced in the fact that the bench they share, and the railing behind them, have fallen into disrepair and have almost been enveloped by the ocean.  Yet, what remains as the most important part of the image is the sense of strength in the family unit. The fact that no matter how wobbly the path becomes they will be able to hold on to each other for balance.

I guess that is one of the most important things a family can be  - a stabilizing force, a metaphysical sense of place, a secure home for your shared memories - as the rest of the world swirls around you.

Another lesson I have learned from my friendship with my "dear friend" Vanessa is that sometimes friends really can become like the family you choose for yourselves. Or in our instance, the family you find as you are wandering the stalls of the Santa Fe flea market ( ~ hers in particular).  I will never forget how I was feeling like a rather aimless soul wandering the high desert mesa that day; and suddenly the kindness and wise words of a stranger were there to pick me up and put me on my path again. Quite literally she helped me find my home there, and through her example I learned to live to my potential and to love the desert more that I ever imagined I could. We forged a friendship that has held strong despite the distance and the years that have come between us.  One of the things that sustains us are the (more infrequent since becoming moms :-) times we get to sit and really write letters to each other.  Here is an excerpt from one I recently sent her.

"I heard a blurb on the radio one day while driving about "soul mates" and the speaker was talking about soul mates in this life - not as lovers or life partners - but the friends that are given to us as "soul mates" to help us learn more about ourselves and live to our potential in this life!  When I heard that I immediately thought of you! My sister soul mate on another continent!"

As I prepare for another growing season, I am thinking about the people that I hold close. The relationships that help me grow as a person. The connections that sustain me, fill me with strength, and help me continue to become a better me.  I am thinking about the people and places I hold inside me - that have become part of me - that I carry inside me like the invisible rings of a tree marking my years.

I am so thankful for this home and the opportunity I have to develop a new sense of place in the years to come. I am thankful for our "new family tree." I am oh so thankful for my family beneath its branches. And, I am incredibly thankful for the "family" of friends I have formed this life. "Dear friends" whose lives have made indelible imprints on my heart. <3

{P.S. Thanks Vanessa, Sean and Aidan for finally relinquishing the sun and sending the warm rays back our way! Happy Vernal Equinox ~ to everyone in my hemisphere :-) }

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful post and a lovely idea about the family tree :) Aren't trees simply amazing?