Tonight, I’d like to tell you of my encounter with a tree. It was a middle-age oak of stout girth (kind of like me), not yet majestic. It kept company with a slender pine in the median of a commercial parking lot in Bucks County about an hour outside Philadelphia. On the opposite side of the median was a vacant pavement belonging to a dead hotel. As I turned left into the office park, I noticed “No Trespassing” barriers blocking the drive, which was disconcerting. I steered my old Subaru passed some nondescript office suites that dated to the 1980s. I was twenty minutes early for my appointment. I’d planned for extra travel time. Normally I would have taken I-95 to get there, but extraordinary circumstances led a huge section of the interstate to collapse a few weeks ago, and all the traffic through the region was being re-routed onto back roads.
What led to this tree-hugging encounter? That would be a bombshell conversation I had with my spouse of twenty-nine years a little less than two weeks ago. I’d just gotten home after caring for my mother in South Carolina for ten days. I was working on quilting her 80th birthday gift – a lovely blue quilt top that reminds me of the ocean. I paused when my husband arrived home early from an office outing to tell me that he’d been unfaithful to me for two years with a nurse and wanted a divorce. We’d been together since 1989 when we fell in love in Venice during a study abroad program. Our “dorm” had been an old warehouse on the Grand Canal next to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. We grew up together, and then grew apart, though I was a bit late to clue into that part. It was during the lockdowns that he decided we were irreconcilable, and downloaded a dating app to see what other options may be out there.
I’d been cancelled again – first my job, then my child, then my life partner. Even my mother, upon hearing the news, implied I brought this on myself due to what she calls “my hobby.” Having a curious mind prone to independent thinking seems to be profoundly unsettling for large swaths of society that promote diversity and equity and inclusion while somehow also embracing rigidity and intolerance. Thirteen days ago, I found myself a pruned node, socially excluded for my refusal to be a midwife to an emergent bio-hybrid super-intelligence. There are those who embrace consensus, and there are those who are outliers. In my twenties I was firmly ensconced in a consensus mindset, but in my fifties, I found myself a middle-aged wildcard having flipped roles as a renegade with my former punk-rock college DJ love now transformed into a highly competent administrator overseeing the education of future leaders for the “what works” Web3 cybernetic future.
My friend Deepti connected me with a wonderful Vedic astrologer last fall, so I decided to check in to get her take on what had happened. As Cliff would say, “something’s happening, nothing’s wrong.” Mohita told me that I would find a way to make money doing work around values and culture in service to society. If anyone has ideas for a mouthy woman of a certain age, I’m all ears. Do I have to get a LinkedIn profile now? Mohita went on to say I would be very creative far from home and that it was time to integrate all of the Alisons and bring them along into this new phase of life that begins next year.
For the short term I’ll be landing in the Pacific Northwest to help a friend who runs a small landscape company. It will be lovely to be outdoors and be more in my body and a bit less in my head. So, I am going to be working on that for a bit. I have to revisit my relationship with these technologies that are hijacking consciousness and stigmergically steering us into neutralized silos. It may be quiet on my blog and channel until winter. I feel called to reconnect with nature: moss, fungi, boulders, and rain. There will likely be a cross-country trip in my future, so if you live in the swath of country between Philadelphia and Seattle and have a couch or a yard to camp in in September, shoot me an email (email@example.com). I’d love to meet more of my readers in person.
I have forgiven my husband for his mistake – not in seeking happiness, but in the way he went about it. The course of my life was changed by an app – a dating app (see this 2018 short story, Unchained: A Story of Love, Loss, and Blockchain, from MIT Technology Review for perspective). But that may not be a bad thing, only different. I have been given a unique set of eyes, a quirky mind, and an open heart. I’m meant to do something with my time on the planet that only an outlier can do. I’m holding this unfolding episode of my life as an unexpected invitation, not a tragedy. I love my family. My moon is in the first house and a cozy home full of love is in the cards. I am confident we can be a family in a new way. I just need to be patient. For now, I dream of a future where I can support the creation of a haven for people like me to think and create and connect. From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow.
When I arrived early to my appointment with the divorce lawyer, I didn’t want to wait in the lobby or sit in my car. So, I got out and gave that oak a big hug and looked for acorns. There was a green one on a low branch and I popped it into the coin purse of my wallet to remember this day, a beckoning open door. I walked around and sat on the far side of the tree where I noticed teeny-tiny acorns on the pavement. Because the hotel was vacant, there had been no cars in that lot for a long, long time – no tires to crush the nuts into bits. It was a haven for acorns. Who knew that oaks dropped them in the spring, too? I didn’t.
I picked a few up and started to place them one next to the other, creating a heart. Then I paused and decided to gather up a bunch of them. In a few minutes I had a large handful, so many that I didn’t need to be stingy with the outline. I poured them onto the pavement and shaped them into the universal symbol of love and in the center, I placed three leaves with a beautiful, variegated hue to represent our family and said a prayer for healing and open paths for all of us. It seemed strange to drive an hour outside the city to meet with this lawyer on the recommendation of a friend, especially given the I-95 situation, but I’m accepting opportunities as they present themselves. In this case, I think I was fated to “meet” this tree.
My first instinct upon hearing the news, beyond wanting to figure out a way to maintain our family, was fear over the future, of being alone in an uncertain economy with skills that are not valued in a digital society. I was in a scarcity mindset, which gradually eased as friends stepped up in support of me. Not yet two weeks out, I’m practicing being without a firm plan and embracing a future where abundance is possible. The oak and the handfuls of little acorns were a message for me, that it will be ok – different, but ok. Mohita says we come into this world with all that we need, the challenge is to learn the lessons. She sees people as signals that tell us something about the state of the sacred fabric of the universe from which we emerge. I love that idea.
A few years ago a friend gave me a silver ring with dandelions on it and the inscription “this too shall pass.” I pointed it out to my mother during our recent visit. I didn’t realize what a blessing it would be to have that ring on my hand even as my wedding ring unexpectedly became obsolete. I hold no ill will for my husband because I know more and more each day how cognitive domain management happens, so please no unkind comments. I know that the system employs sophisticated measures to geo-fence and isolate disruptive elements. I also know that I would never be able to successfully forget what I know and go back to the fold. So, I embrace this new chapter with the support and blessings of friends who can see me and cherish me for who I am.
I hope this is not too personal, but I’ve always been pretty open about my life. Who I am shapes the stories I tell and how I tell them. Who knows what will come next? I’m leaving the window open with a prayer for guidance. I’m told it will come.