Start Where You Are: Tuesday in the trees

Storm King Alley

There is a warm undercurrent in the air today, like a swirl of caramel in my friend Janet’s applesauce.

Tart with a warm vein pulsing sweetness.








Grass at Storm King




I have been to several hallowed places over the past few days. This does include the Registry of Motor Vehicles up in North Adams where my 16 year old took her driving test last Wednesday. She handled a very common, but potentially dangerous situation with her understated confidence, which caused the terse RMV instructor to drop her guard for a few minutes and praise my daughter. Both of them were happily surprised and relieved. My girl went on to execute a fine K-turn and forgot to use her emergency brake when parking. She parallel parked behind a van driven by a very attractive electrician who reached for a heavy case flexing every muscle in his angled back for my daughter’s benefit. She pulled in, pulled up and “prepared her vehicle for leaving it overnight” while keeping an eye on the guy. But when her instructor admonished her for under use of the parking brake and praised her quick decision-making and passing skills, my girl was aflutter with joy at having passed her test.

I remained silent, as was requested of me, for the whole trip. She had left my back passenger window open, so I was able to send prayers freely and on the breeze with not one care in the world but to be quiet. We cheered on the sidewalk after the whole thing was over. The electrician had vanished, having hauled himself and his heavy tools in to a storefront.

Thursday, I visited Storm King Sculpture Park over in Goshen, New York. For all these years of passing that outdoor museum, I have never stopped. I was there with two friends. We painted and walked, ate apples and photographed. It was an adventure with lunch and paint.

Then, on Sunday, we took my exchange daughter in to New York City. We like to drift, so having a few spare agenda points in a long set of hours suits us all well. We went from the Upper West Side down to the site of the World Trade Center Memorial Park. There were many people there. People standing, taking photos, praying, crying, laughing, touching the water, running their fingertips over the names names names that surround the terraced fountain.

We the People at the WTC Memorial Park in New York City by Suzi Banks Baum

I drew for a while. This always makes me slow down and see details I might otherwise miss. I noticed people walking up to a tree, different from the Swamp White Oaks that line the park, and special for being fenced with a metal railing and staked carefully with rubber straps around it’s branches. A man stood with his hand on the thick trunk as if he was a doctor feeling for a pulse or a healer applying his energy. I stood listening to him tell the story of the Survivor Tree.
The Callery Pear
You can read all about it here. This Callery Pear tree grew on the plaza near buildings 4 and 5. It survived the collapse of the Towers and being buried in rubble for three months. When workers at the site found green shoots coming up through the piles of debris in November, they knew these signs of life were worth salvaging. The tree spent a few years at Van Cortlandt Park recuperating and in 2010 it was replanted in Memorial Park. People place offerings, wreathes, flowers in the tree, they put their hands on the tree, as if this one live thing can bless. It is a gorgeous tree. President Obama has spoken next to this tree and many people stand in hushed company with this tree daily.


Rainbow at the WTC Memorial Park in NYC

I don’t know what will bless me next. A tree. A driving instructor. Golden leaves falling in a shower across my laundry line, filling the gullies made by sheets hung between the lines with leaves and pine needles. Whatever shows up has the potential to bless.

When I open my computer to write these posts, I am never sure what will touch you readers. I write to describe what life is like for me, here, in this small town, with these children, with this life and appetite to make things. I write to make sense of my experience. My longing is to express, to digest thoughts and cohere, which makes me think, Co-Hear—to listen along with you, to what traces my day.

There are so many ways to see things.
We could have seen the driving instructor has strict and authoritative, punitive and demanding. Or, we could take her instruction and enjoyed flexing our driving muscles for her to see and receive her hard won praise.
That tree, just a stumpy ruined thing, could have been discarded among all that terrible chaos. But, the signs of life, the green, and the tree’s vitality called out to the people working in that place.

There are signs of life all around us. Signs that we are on to something. Signs of vitality. I just have to be quiet enough to see them.

Golden Tree at Storm King

Have a good old week.
October feels so much like a mature person to me. I love being in its fuzzy golden aura.
I am teaching my Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions on the 15th and 22nd.
This coming Sunday, the 19th is my monthly Powder Keg Sunday Session. Please email me if you are interested in either event.

Coming up on October 31, while some are trick-or-treating, I will be at Skidmore College with the Women Writers Artists Matrix as Siren of Ceremonies for the Friday evening Salon. This weekend of art, writing and wellness is a great boost of nourishment as we head in to November and the triple threat set of holidays ahead.

Wherever you are, watch for signs of life.





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Showing 4 comments
  • Tania Pryputniewicz

    Oh Suzi, “co-hear” “co-hear!” precisely the beautiful thing we get to do when we read your posts. Divine, after your blog’s name. Enjoying the beauty of your attention to the world, to healing, to words, to your daughter. Sending love.

  • Lorrin Krouss

    One of your more beautiful posts and pictures as well. Your words teach us all to pay attention to all that is around us. So many of us pass through this life never lifting our eyes upwards. I agree, you are Divine.

  • ValPas

    What a lovely story of the World Trade Center Memorial tree! I love trees and plants; they let us know that life goes on, no matter what horrible things we may do to the world.

  • Terri Bocklund

    Suz – you are the consummate Siren of Ceremonies, my darling girl! I want to come and see you again. Let’s imagine!