It’s raining in Victoria today, a persistent grey drizzle, a typical west coast winter day. Though I am happiest when the sun is shining, I don’t mind the rain. I love the tap tapping of rain on my skylights, and the dreamy, impressionistic glaze on wet windows. And once I convince myself to get out, I like walking in the rain. Sound is muted. Everything is greener; everything seems more lush.
Today I was stopped in my tracks by a single arbutus tree. I’ve always loved arbutus, the way their strong limbs twist skyward, finding the sun; the way the cinnamon bark peels away revealing smooth expanses of wood beneath, in mottled shades of green and rust; the way the trees sport dead branches and bright new growth, at once dying and finding renewal. Today’s arbutus, shining in the rain, stopped me, the cinnamon peel a deeper shade of rust, the new bark beneath, a brighter shade of green, the leaves darker and glossier.
I stood and admired the tree, ran my hands over the smooth green trunk, resisted the temptation to pull away the flaking copper layers, bright as pennies. All in due course. The bark will curl away when it’s meant to. There is beauty in the contrast: rough and smooth, old and new, pale and dark. There is beauty in the tree’s becoming.
I feel like I’m shedding old bark these days too, letting go of what I no longer need, and finding my own sense of renewal. After months away, I am ready again to write. After a much longer period, I’ve rediscovered my deep love of fiction, and have been devouring works by Barbara Kingsolver and Salman Rushdie and Vincent Lam. And I’ve been quietly learning how to be part of a couple again, a transition that’s been surprisingly difficult for me.
The arbutus has much to teach me. I’m learning about staying strong, about reaching for the light, about shedding the old, about finding continuing renewal. I’m learning.