South Carolina and The Angel Oak

I am a jaded human being. I have a hard time being joyful these days. I recently said to a professional in the mental health field that i'd "lost faith in humanity." I laughed after i said it, but i did it a little too loud and gave myself away.

I'm hoping (as is said by so many parents) it's a phase.

I figure it is. On the jade-o-meter i still have a ways to go before i bottom out. One way i know this is true is that i still find babies cute. And, of course, puppy dogs. I marveled at new sprouts of growth on a tree the other day in the park. There's still hope. I guess it's just the big, grown-up, human people that bother me so much.

All of the ones that wanna sell me something after they act like they're my friend. The ones that say they want to be helpful out of one pocket and then hurt hurt hurt with what comes out the other. The folks that profess to really love Jesus but hate half his brothers and sisters here on earth (and sometimes half his brothers and All of his sisters). The really jarring part, of course, is the process of recognizing that i'm right in there with them. And, also, to think "wow, i've come so far" only to find i'm halfway through--and that, down the road, the learning curve gets even steeper.

I'm not trying to be all holier-than-thou, but maybe you can relate when i say i feel a little discouraged when a person at the church social assumes i want to hear the new one about the jewish feminist, gay iraqi and urban musician stuck on a life raft.* When someone uses this as their introduction you already know it's a lost cause to point out they're 53 years old and have a sock stuck down their pants.

Lately I've developed the successful strategy of wincing even as strangers approach. This way I'm not left to choose between feigning deafness or grasping both ears in my hands while shouting LALALA! and running, full-on, into the nearest body of alligator-infested water. Yeah, the wince works, but it leaves me lonely.

There's a lot stuff about this world and particularly South Carolina that needs some fixin', but, to go back to the jade-o-meter, here's something that doesn't:

When the subject of the Grand Canyon comes up, i enjoy telling people, no matter how much they might build it up in their heads before hand, they'll still not be prepared for what they see when they get there. I can now say that about two things.

The Angel Oak, although it is a fixture of the hotel brochure rack, cousin to the go-cart track and boon companion of miniature golf, is one of my favorite things on earth. It is simply a giant tree that has minded its own business for the last thousand or two years. It does not care that it lives in a place currently called South Carolina. The temperature and feel of the air under its massive canopy is so different it's as if the tree has its own atmosphere. Under it i feel almost quiet inside, and not near so jaded.

It is friendly and probably quite happy. The Angel Oak never tries to tell me a dirty joke...well, at least not one i don't want to hear. It chooses to be oblivious to the recent spate of commercialization surrounding it and encroaching on the quiet land it has known for centuries. It is dignified and will probably continue to be so even as car exhaust and the ever-expanding pavement and nearby sewer lines start to choke the life from it. When it starts to leave us, I hope that well-intentioned human intervention is tastefully limited.

I obviously, unabashedly love this tree.

*this particular joke doesn't exist, but i feel certain some of our extra-rabid bible-thumping readers will be able to come up with a version or two.


jaz said...

This whole nation of ours has been stressed for years now. We've been anxious and angry, unsure what to do about it, and lashing out at one another as a result.

But that can only go on for so long. There have been signs - maybe even in the last election - that people are getting sick and tired of being sick and tired.

People are starting to get bored with all the finger-pointing and name calling. And that's a very good sign.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Cooler heads may yet prevail.

Kenneth said...

I've been learning some very painful lessons about church people for the last couple of years.

Biffle said...

two things: jaz: thank you for the kind reassurance. I hope you're right.

kenneth: i recall your post from a while back about finding a church, and have often wondered how it was going for you. is it time for an update?

Kenneth said...

I became an Episcopalian last year, and then all hell broke loose. It's been the most wrenching, stressful, depressing experience of my adult life. I've been meaning to write about it, but a court case is still pending and I'm not sure it's appropriate. I probably will, though, soon.

Denise said...

I love the Angel Oak. It's one of my favorite places in the lowcountry. Thanks for posting a photo of it - it made my day.

Biffle said...

damn, kenneth.

glad i could be of service, denise.

Anonymous said...

The Angel Oak has a deep history that is not talked about alot if you are really interested in it i suggest that you visit the planation and ask one of the african american tours guides or actors about the true history and miths surrounding the tree. it is very interesting!