He’s like this fig tree in South Africa that I read about. The tree is located in a place called Echo Cave, and it made the Guiness Book of World Records for boasting the deepest roots known on earth- 400 feet deep and sprawling.
And it makes sense, because he’s a Taurus- the bull. The Earthiest of all Earthy signs.
I picked him twenty-something years ago because the shade he provided felt like welcome protection from a lifetime of walking in the sun. I could quit following the caravan of military gypsies to places that were never going to feel like home and take up residence in him.
He never lied about who he was, and he embraced me. He grew slowly, steadily. I climbed his branches, etched my name into his thick flesh and lived in awe of the way he produced a self-healing sap that closed every wound I attempted to inflict. It was as though nothing bothered him.
Like the fig tree, he produced fruit in consistent abundance; he never failed.
He stood strong in high wind; he endured long winters and hot dry summers with me, and I never, ever doubted him.
But I was the climber, the taker, the farmer getting angry that the vast network of roots pumping life into this tree was taking up too much space. How could we ever grow anything else?
There was a book I loved when I was young. “Go, Dog, Go.” It was this hardcover series by Dr. Seuss. I don’t remember anything else about the book other than the page where a bunch of dogs were having a party in a massive tree.
He was what I wanted from the time I was six or seven. A tree big enough for a massive dog party. Deep roots. Lush shade. Sweet fruit. Season after season, a man who would be there for me. Solid. Dependable. Consistent.
As it happened, I began to miss the forest for the trees. So I did what climbers do. I got tired of waiting for him to grow new branches for me to climb. I got bored with figs. I got cold inside of his shade, and there never was the dog party of my eight year old imagination. I grew angry and guilty; to be angry at his predictable dependability was like being mad at the sky for always being blue.
I decided one day to recruit an army of lies and together we set him on fire, intent on destruction. And burn, he did. I watched as my flames crawled up his sides, engulfing his weakest and oldest branches first. The heat was too much for the miraculous healing sap, and we both choked on the smoke of old things burning away. I didn’t even offer to put the fire out with the tears I cried as I watched the destruction. I barely apologized, blaming him for never realizing I’d been standing there with a gallon of gasoline and a Bic lighter, just waiting for the courage to burn down everything he had ever been to me.
And he, the Bull.
He used the strength of his roots and the richness of his character to extinguish the flames. He looked at me, a skeleton of his former self, charred and withered and broken, but not destroyed. Far from destroyed.
The fire cleared away dead branches, insects and spiders and things he hadn’t even noticed had taken up a residence within him. Unwelcome things. Hidden things.
He didn’t beg me to stay. He didn’t demand that I leave. He just asked me if that was it, if that was all, if there were any other lies waiting to rekindle the inferno.
And like the greatest of trees in this world; he stood.
He believed that somewhere between his connection to the earth and the sky, we belonged. From ashes sprouted new growth, promises of potential.
He didn’t ask me to repair the damage I’d done. He didn’t blame me. He forgave me before the smoke cleared.
I didn’t deserve his shade. I didn’t deserve a dog party in the luxurious foliage of a massive tree that only ever wanted to hold me close. I didn’t deserve branches to climb, and I definitely didn’t deserve to call the ground that housed his roots my home.
Yet, here he is. Growing around me again, above me and below me, keeping me safe. He doesn’t demand that I become a tree, and I don’t demand him to climb. We belong.
And we have two amazing kids and two Great Danes, so I got my dog party after all.