Mud Pie just took off into the front yard singing a funny little song only she can sing. She ran back so excited she could hardly get the words out. "Mommy I found a BIG yellow flower!" We talked about it for a minute, then she played chase with Oscar, and now he's resting on the deck and Pie is standing, simply standing in the yard listening. It's a noisy place, the forest.

We never had this in the city, and not just because Pie wasn't walking well yet. We had two or three doors, sets of stairs, cracked porch to navigate just to touch anything green. The fragrance of lilacs was tinged with the neighbors' stale cigarettes, their leftover beers toppled in the grass, rotting things in trash bags.

We had a small maple in our backyard. Only one branch had leaves. Every time I looked at it, I felt sad. It was dying, as trees do, but it was our tree, our only glimpse of Eternal amidst cracked concrete and urban blight. I felt like that tree, strangled by the city, by its dangers and mess and stench and constant closeness to humanity in all their unpredictability. I seldom fought the doors and cracked porch and uneven sidewalks.

There is a dying tree in the forest out back, but I won't let Dr. D cut it down as he would love to do. I love the tree's stark symmetry, its leafless tallness against the lush green of the woods. Here dead things are not blight, they point the way to life. In the city our maple would be cut down, hauled away or chipped. Here, if left to nature and not Dr. D's chainsaw, it will fuel generations of life of all different sorts. Bugs, birds, moss. Even if felled by Dr. D, it would fuel our stove all winter.

Here my brokenness is not death. My soul-darkness does not make me useless, fit only for the flames (or wood chipper). I may feel stripped to nothing, gangly and lifeless, but I can still grow.

And maybe, just maybe Mud Pie, Fish, St. Nick can flourish too.