The Wisdom of Trees (continued)

I, too, am starting to come apart, ebb away, and that is the natural order of things. My particular condition is called Parkinson’s but it could be, and for others is, dozens of different markers of breaking down. Still, like the trees, we persist as best we can; unlike the trees, we can express gratefulness that we have lived ably as long as we have. One test of my “ableness” is simple: Can I carry the morning coffee tray up the stairs, around two curves, and into the bedroom to my wife, Singi (Christine)? Seeing her face when I make it is a daily joy. And so far I have always made it.

I have written before of closure projects: Conservation easements that we are doing on three parcels of wild land; the art gallery at the Austrian farm (Hirschengut) that is now a family archive (Ed note: see text and photos here); closing my final office at the university. Another one occurred in 2014 with the appearance of a book Finns in the United States: A History of Settlement, Dissent, and Integration (Michigan State University Press), for which I wrote the historiographical introduction.  I said all that I wanted to say on the subject, in a book that should last a generation at least. Words and arguments, too, can have endings.

But to listen to Singi (Christine) — our lives are not dominated by slowing down and finishing up old on-going projects: We’re still running headlong into the future, trying through activism to help create a better world. And it is true: I am still part of groups with agendas, the most time-consuming one aptly called Save the Wild U.P. The groups are historical, environmental, and ethnic, and each makes its claim on my life and energy, and through me on Singi’s life and energy. We are torn, as E. B. White once expressed it, between savoring the world and wanting to save it. I find it a healthy tension, especially with our annual dropout for three months each year in Austria for recharging. Then again, we will intuit when the time has come to drop out for six months, or entirely. Life will let us know.

This note originally appeared in Jon’s 2014 holiday letter.

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