I am reminded of whales: first surrounding the herring with bubbles, which creates a herring-globe, then the whole herd of whales rise up together and gobble up the giant fish ball. Sorry. That's just a mailbox, crumpled in years, engulfed in bark and skin and the workings of a once tall Black Oak.
Having driven by this tree, one of a row of oaks by the road, many times over the past three years, I have often thought of stopping and photographing the mailbox. Battered by years of all mailboxes go through, by the tree growing around it, I have fantasized of the mail it has received over the years. One morning in late December, I rounded the corner to find the tree felled out into the vineyard. It was sectioned out, limbed. Done. The end.
Think of a summer morning, the Oak branches leafed-out, Orioles, woodpeckers and Blue Jays building nests, squirrels zipping through the canopy. The field rolls downward, toward the river, rows of prune trees with fruit set, roots in deep, fertile valley dirt. Nearby orange trees, apricot, and lemon are heavy with fruit. The hill across the road rises steep up to the ridge, covered in Pine, Madrone, Pepperwood, Manzanita and Red Bud. Oaks do not really grow much up there for some reason. Deer come down to graze on the ranchers tidbits and to go to the river. Mountain Lions and follow the deer. Coyote watches for Jack Rabbit, for gopher, for mouse. The Oak is younger, stronger, can take a mailbox nailed to her side, the road and the summer go on forever. Before vineyards covered every inch of land, this was an Eden.
The Oak gradually embraces the metal box attached to her trunk. Did kids drive by and whack it with their baseball bats? Maybe a promise arrived, carelessly laid in with magazines and advertisements. Perhaps tender thoughts written out in straight lines, on thin paper, round with hope and tears, carefully folded, tucked into the light envelope with red and blue outlining the edges, with the eagle in the corner. Air mail, for when it eventually arrives at an air port.
Oh, that makes me think of my brothers, who put a wet cow-flop in a paper bag and into Walter's mail box at the end of our lane. They got into some trouble over that, since Walter was really a nice person, and our landlord.
Life has its way of moving on, whether or no I wish to follow. One of my hopes for the New Year is to open up. Maybe I am already doing that, yet my fantasy of opening is that it would feel good! It is odd to me, to have my childhood so far away, to be an orphan (most people are at my age!), to not feel like everything is perfect! Maybe everything is perfect, and how I look at it determines how perfect it can be.