When I woke to heavy icy snow cloaking the trees last week, I had a choice. I could stay inside by our cozy woodstove and observe, or I could head out and shake the branches.
Tomorrow, voters who care about the future of Democracy, but have not yet cast their ballots face a similar choice. In some places, they may confront much more than giant clumps of snow falling on their heads as part of the shaking and saving of life-giving trees. They may encounter voter intimidation, cutting back of polling locations and ballot boxes, lack of time to vote when working long shifts on election day, and …apathy or even a gloomy sense of a foregone conclusion.
That morning, it took me a bit too long to realize the plight of the splayed snowy bowed limbs of plum, apple, cherry, maple, pear, almond, and lilac among our hardy native trees in the front yard. Pulling on winter boots, I wandered first into the backyard touching the snowflake lacery upon golden aspen leaves. I tasted the tang of pine-scented crystals melting on my tongue and laughed as our labrador Pepper wriggled on her back creating dog angels in the four or five inches of new snow. I wished I’d gone to the front yard first, but I did get there.
There is still time. Tomorrow’s midterm outcomes are not a foregone conclusion. Shake those trees. Feel the joy of unbowed branches, of freed limbs, of your power to make a difference—branch by branch. We know what’s on the ballot at every level—Democracy, Climate, a Green Job-filled Economy, and a Woman’s Right to Choose. Those are the trunks—and on every limb, every twig, every leaf—so much more is at stake (see FairVote for example). Every local race matters. On the ballot, too, is The Future of Big Trees and Wild Forests, With every shake, we can keep them standing. We can offer lasting protection.
When all that chilling snow came tumbling down on my stocking hat and my lifted face, I felt fully alive. For the smaller trees, I grasped the trunks and threw all my strength into rocking them back and forth. Some branches resisted lifting up from their serious droop, with leaves coated in too much ice below the snow.
Yes there were losses. The capacious ornamental plum with the maroon leaves—the one where a Cooper’s hawk perched the day before—well that trunk split in two and branches fell upon the lilac that in turn leaned ever lower. A few days later, Wes and I would find a way with lopping and sawing of limbs to lighten the load enough to pull the trunk up and bind the halves together with a climbing rope—a temporary fix.
For all the native plant gardeners, you might be wondering—why so much effort to save what doesn’t belong here naturally? While I pride our pollinator garden’s native plants, our front yard is admittedly a hodgepodge reflecting choices from the years before I lived here, and some deliberate recent plantings of fruit trees. We choose to honor all trees no matter what their origin. Nature is dynamic. When ornamental trees do break or fall, we will plant native trees that are adapted to Central Oregon’s drought and host the most pollinators, or we will step back and see what emerges from the soil in the sunlight. Always, we will offer our gratitude.
I noticed how well the native trees handled the heft. The succulent leathery evergreen leaves of manzanitas and ceanothus cradled snow, as did the ponderosa pines flexing their bunched needles as if wearing cozy mittens. They reminded me of their exquisite evolution and adaptation to hardship. Yet, weather extremes test all inhabitants and all who seek food and shelter. An Anna’s hummingbird hovered by our feeder with her beak inserting into nothing but ice. I ran to bring out the other nectar feeder from the kitchen and willed her return.
Tomorrow is election day. It’s not too late to help all who have yet not voted to do so. Simple actions matter–like offering a ride to the polls or reaching out to remind friends or family members. I could have done much more, but even spending a couple hours with my friend Gail on Saturday knocking doors for Oregon Democratic candidates helped –one voter at a time. We listened with empathy. We were able to offer tips on getting Oregon’s mail-in ballots turned in on time (postmarked November 8, or dropped in ballot boxes before 8 pm). So many volunteers are working tirelessly and long hours. I’m humbled and grateful to them. (A special thank you in Bend to the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and The Vocal Seniority).
Our work? Let’s shake the life-affirming trees until kindness flutters into every soul. Don’t ever give up.