For much of November, I sat on my second-hand green sofa and stared out my living room window with my bowl of oatmeal perched in my lap. I sat this way for many hours on many mornings. Days three, four, five that a fellow graduate student was refusing to eat in protest. The day I heard that he signed a DNR. The day the University of Missouri system president resigned. The morning after I saw the online threats to members of our campus. The days of graduate student walk-outs.
Most mornings, I would have a book in my lap, too. Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat for my non-fiction workshop. New Age Capitalism and The Jesuit Relations for my lit seminars. But many times, I couldn’t focus on the text and would just drift off, the oatmeal half-eaten and growing cold; the pages of my book fluttering shut, unread.
For hours, I watched the tree outside my window—the only one on the block that stands full of leaves. During the whole month of November, it was brilliant, near glowing with its different colors of ambers and rust, browns and even green. As the Missouri wind blew through these leaves, each twisted and whipped individually from the force, but they never fell.
I took pictures of the gray skies and our Memorial Union against them and I did what many people told me to do: I wrote it. Or, I tried.
An attempt, in a journal entry from November:
The writer in me wants to write, the reader in me wants to return to my books. The artist in me wants to create; the heart in me wants to cry. And yet, I cannot find words to describe what I want to write, I cannot find silence in my mind to read. I cannot imagine any picture or colors to organize on a canvas. I cannot make the tears fall.
Many days I spent in silence while I let the hours pass, trying to think of words. I let my coffee grow cold. I saw a snowfall that dusted over the tops of the buildings. I tried to read. I watched my tree.
I took note of its color and its differences. Its strength and resilience. Its permanence in my mornings. It isn’t brilliant due to its uniformity, or that it blocks the breeze. Each leaf has a different shade and hue. Each responds to the gusts in its own way: some move with force while others cling to the branches. They do not resist the wind, the change, but they respond in ways that show the strength of their colors. This is what gives this tree depth. It is what gives this tree brilliance. It is what makes this tree beautiful.