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The struggle with loving

Her wide arms 
reach and summon.
I feel the lure even
from a mile away.

I met her, the giant 
Grandmother oak
centered on an island 
in the Jackson Park lagoon.
In those days, 
I wore rubber gloves and a mask, 
sanitized the handlebars.
When air frightened me
I met her, the giant.

Immediately I loved her.
Immediately I knew
solace and joy under
her big branches, 
branches like my grandma’s
large, loving arms.
I found a home and wondered:
Can I fall in love with a tree?

Some days I am
not sure what love is. 
I assume it’s relational 
sacrifice, but maybe 
it’s simply attention. 

I don’t doubt that I love her.
So then why have I ignored 
her whispered invitations 
between Zoom meetings 
and typing emails?
While folding laundry or washing dishes,
I often wonder how she’s doing. 
I wonder about the size of her leaves, 
her current color of green. 

I am preoccupied
and full of excuses. 
I am way too slow
and not so good
at loving my neighbor.
I am way too slow 
at doing what’s good for me
and following my heart. 

Without gloves, masks and sanitizer, 
over a year after I met her, 
I find myself under her branches.
Held by giant arms, 
I feel my heartbeat.
I am discovering that 
I'm still alive,
I still do love, 
and she still does reach. 
Grandmother oak in Jackson Park. photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA.

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