There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency.
I’ve always liked that quote by Jonathan Swift, and over the last 15 months it has proven more true than ever before. My life, and the lives of my family members, have kind of hit this wall of what my father and I call “Stirrell Luck.” (Stirrell’s a nickname, but that’s a story for another time.) We’ve lost my grandfather, our dog, some would say our minds and somehow we’ve unwillingly become cat people. And this past weekend, we were hit with another serious change to our lives on “the corner.” We had to cut down an ash tree, the Tree, that had pretty much become a huge part of my family’s identity.
Yeah, I know. It’s a little weird that a tree would be so important. But there’s something you have to understand.
It wasn’t just some stupid plant that sat in front of my grandmother’s house. It was safety, peace, home. My family laughed under its branches. We cried and seethed and slept. Three granddaughters grew up underneath its shade. Family who lived states away and just down the road gathered in plastic chairs beneath its leaves.
But it died, like trees will do, and we were all a little heartbroken. I don’t think any of us really expected to see the end of the Tree. At least not while we still called the corner ours, and especially not after so many other things in our lives had changed. But it had to come down, one way or another, so we moved the wooden swing that had sat underneath it for as long as my advanced 22 years of age can remember, and some watched as the once-mighty Tree came tumbling down.
I won’t lie. Very few memories stand out in true clarity when it comes to the years I’ve spent under the Tree. They all kind of bleed together into a watercolor blur of happiness and content. But I do have one moment that I remember in that gut-feeling kind of detail.
I had just finished my freshman year of college, which was a year of experiencing literally everything in a completely different light, and I was spending one of the first summer nights under the tree with the normal crew of my grandparents, aunt, father and dog. And we were trying to solve some world problem, like usual, when it hit me that sitting there wasn’t a normal thing. Families didn’t do something like that any more and somehow my family was the abnormal and I’d never noticed. But I remember thinking that I was so beyond okay with that, because that Tree time and those people on that corner and the ones who visited had literally helped me become the person that I was. That I am. And that I am so proud to be.
I remember thinking in that moment that there was not a single place on this planet I would rather be sitting.
So while I’m obviously sad over the loss of something that has literally helped shape me into the person I am today, there’s also a silver lining. Because with every era that ends, a new one will begin. We’ll find a new place for the swing, probably under a different tree. And while it will never be the Tree, it’ll still be the same people. And we’ll still be trying to solve world problems. And we’ll still laugh and cry and seethe and sleep. The Stirrell’s will remain on the corner, waving to the cars passing by and questioning “Well, who was that?”
Yes, life will remain inconsistent. But it’s all about how you look at the inconsistencies.