Dealing with Change

Carol A. Hand

Banyan Tree, Lahaina, Hawaii – Photo by Melikamp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, 15 November 2009 (Wikipedia)

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Greeting the morning contemplating Lahaina’s Banyan Tree
removed from its homeland, an involuntary out-of-place refugee
planted on an island far away commemorating colonial supremacy

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Banyan Tree Plaque, Lahaina, Hawaii – Photo by Nvvchar, 19 October 2014 (Wikipedia)

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Once I stood beneath its massive protective canopy
unaware of its suffering and symbolic history
grateful for its beauty and the cooling shade it accorded me

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Banyan Tree – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii – 1998

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Now I ponder colonial displacement from different frames
considering both the grievous irredeemable losses and potential gains

 

***

What does it mean to stand alone in a land that’s not one’s own?
removed from the environment one’s species has always called home?
unable to return to be among protective kindred, thus resigned?
to serve, without a choice, the frivolous hubris of mankind?

***

In changing times Lahaina’s Banyan Tree symbolizes resilience and adaptability
surviving storms and droughts in a foreign land for more than a century
touching hearts throughout the years, inspiring kindness and creativity
giving others who are also displaced a sense of home, community
beneath an ever-expanding crown of a now deep-rooted beloved tree

 

Note:

This poem was inspired by a class I am revising for the upcoming semester. I have been thinking about ecosystems, communities of living organisms nested within specific environments forming an interactive network with the elements (earth, air, and waters) available in their surroundings. The myriad of living interactive systems around the globe have had to adapt to ever-changing conditions throughout history. Some plant and animal species have become extinct in this ongoing process.

Often, these changes are viewed and portrayed primarily by what has been lost, perhaps forever. Much as I sometimes romantically imagine that we can return to earlier ways, I know we can’t go back. The world has changed. But there are things that we can learn from our ancestors and from the trees that help sustain the health of the world.

***

Banyan Tree – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii – 1998

***

I remember the Banyan tree that so amazed me when I visited Maui and Oahu with my daughter in 1998. The plaque pictured above tells a little bit about the tree’s history and symbolism. It was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Lahaina. What I found most heartening in the brief historical accounts I read is the growing awareness among people about the need to take better care of the Banyan.

Note the changes visible in the photos from 1998 and 2009. The tile pavers have been removed, allowing the earth to breathe, although more work may be needed to assure adequate moisture and nourishment.

”The tree has been subject to severe stress due to drought conditions, soil compaction from foot and vehicle traffic in the park, and also due to developmental activities in the vicinity. As a result, restrictions have been imposed … Its sustenance has been ensured by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation by installing an irrigation system in the park” (Wikipedia).

I don’t believe we can turn back time, but we can learn how to welcome and care for those who are displaced like the Banyan by forces outside of their control. This is one of the key lessons I hope to pass on to my students next semester.

***

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30 thoughts on “Dealing with Change”

  1. Carol, a few years ago an Indian friend took me to visit banyan tree in Chennai. The tree is ancient and now a large forest. It was more than memorable. What an immense presence!

    Colonialism’s fragmentation of ecosystems, cultures, families, and selves brings much loss and grief, yet also resilience and creativity as each seeks wholeness.

    I’d love to take your class!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh, Carol! An interesting and meaningful post but when I read the opening – “Greeting the morning contemplating Lahaina’s Banyan Tree” – I thought you’d escaped the harsh winter conditions and was disappointed to realize you were contemplating a photo and a memory!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for making me laugh, Diane. 🙂 Yes, I have been thinking about Hawaii recently. But today was a balmy 25 F, a nice change from – 19 F yesterday, so at least my fingers weren’t freezing as I thought about Lahaina.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Carol-
    Touching and beautiful poem, your words often seem to encapsulate emotions I experience surrounding occupation, colonization, marginalization, and life in general. I wish I could be your student, they are so lucky to have you! It is reassuring there are instructors like you out there teaching next generations.
    With loving kindness- Marahu

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Marahu, thank you. I so appreciate your kind words and crucial insights. I send my best wishes to you and thank you for inspiring me and others by consistently demonstrating loving kindness in your life and writing. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Now we are micro-colonialists, carving niches within niches, a housing estate here, an industrial estate there, a tourist shop near a cave. Heartbreaking, but yes, the resilience of nature is incredible, and heartwarming. I think we are learning, I hope we are learning, making a difference. Those trees are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely as always Carol. This one I can relate to personally as I lived on Oahu as an irrigation specialist from 85-88 I dug many a trench and banyan trees where a formidable opponent. I would often dig under the distinguished top surface roots and admire its smooth skin. Thank you for teaching me its history. Are you aware of the history of the mongoose on the island. They also have an interesting “tail” (pun intended) . Wishing you all the best for 2018 Dear Carol:)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Ray, and for sharing your experiences with banyan trees in Hawaii. 🙂

      My reply is a bit delayed so I could find out the mystery of the mongoose. In case anyone else is interested, I’m posting a link (https://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/an-invader-advances-in-hawaii/).

      I send my best wishes to you, too, dear friend. May you have a peaceful and wonder-filled year. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Carol, thanks for your interesting story. Your post provokes other questions: What about those who feel strangers in their own land? Who know that they were born strangers & will die strangers if they don’t make an effort to find their own, real land on Earth? In fact, our roots belong not only to the place of birth. They’re deeper. They come from our own Soul and may belong to far, unknown places that we must find to comprehend what we really are & what the sense of our life is. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Maria, and for raising interesting questions. I really am not sure how to answer them for others.

      I remember the feelings of deep connection I had to the land and environment where some of my ancestors (Ojibwe) had lived for centuries and millennia. It was as if the land and trees and animals spoke to me, passing on a deep sense of belonging, wisdom, protection, and joy. And yes, in the nation that has imposed a different culture on that land, I have also experienced what it feels like to be an out-of-place-and out-of-time stranger in the place where my ancestors once lived. Perhaps that’s why I feel the plight of indigenous peoples who are displaced so deeply and the unrootedness of immigrants who felt forced to seek a better life or merely to survive. Knowing and having deep loving connections to the place where one lives is, I believe, a crucial foundation for compassion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I share your opinion, my dear Friend. And I’d like to add some more (from the side of my favourite reincarnation topic): our Soul has the memory that is beyond the time. And if we’re blessed by God, when we return back on Earth we are able to feel & comprehend it right. I believe that we visit many places within our long terrestrial journey,while some of them have the special meaning. We may live all our life somewhere without remembering anything of our real past. But if we do it has the meaning. The past forms our future, the past is the true connection with the real history that is always hidden & flows somewhere in Universe. And if we’re able to feel its breathe, it means we are able to comprehend so many things. You’re right saying that nature can speak to us…but not everywhere. Only in our own place. Ingenious cultures call it the place of force.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for highlighting the current displacement crises, PJ. Global displacement has been on my mind as I try to plan a class to prepare students to consider future possibilities for using research and community practice to address the crucial issues they are likely to encounter.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Carol, this reminds me of what an adoptee told me, “You can’t raise a zebra in the arctic.” As an adoptee I feel I was planted in the wrong place but I somehow managed. What a beautiful tree, even lost.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “What does it mean to stand alone in a land that’s not one’s own?”…that resonated so much with me and what I see here everyday…I’m currently taking some courses from the Work that Reconnects Network and we are exploring the world of interseccionalism, privilege and colonialism and I’m learning so much! So grateful as always to have found you, sister, in this place that sometimes sounds like an artificial matrix but has the magic of introducing us to one another…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your friendship and presence in my life are such precious gifts, Silvia. The breadth of your knowledge and the depth and sensitivity of your insights, earned by an indomitable spirit that has helped you overcome so much adversity, always inspire me, Thank you for always sharing who you are with such honesty, authenticity, and caring. ❤

      Like

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