Time

Bernie and I were
in Charleston last week,
photographing springtime.
We spent three days
at Middleton Place,
an old plantation.
This is the home of the Middleton Oak,
a huge, lovely old tree, laden with Spanish moss.
It’s been around more than 500 years.
Photographing that particular tree was one purpose
of our journey.
Bernie made several pictures when we arrived.
I chose to wait.
People were standing under its extensive canopy;
I wanted to photograph the tree by itself.
Besides, the position of the sun wasn’t just right.
I would come back late in the day
when the sun was lower in the sky.
That evening I made my way there
only to be met by yellow police tape
fencing in the gigantic tree.
A mammoth limb had crashed to the ground,
creating an unsightly hole in its profile.
That night a second, larger branch broke off,
making the Middleton Oak even more lop-sided.
The next morning tree experts discovered
that many branches are becoming hollow.
It’s unsafe to go near anymore.
There’s nothing to be done.

Why do I write about this tree
in a space dedicated to thoughtful caregivers?
Because of the lesson I learned last week.
I waited to photograph that venerable tree,
sure I had all the time in the world.
But I was wrong—
the time I had was quite limited;
I just didn’t realize it.
So I missed the image
I had traveled 800 miles to make.
I learned that if we keep waiting
for the perfect time to do something,
we stand in real danger
of missing our opportunity.
If we hold back from saying
what we’d like to lovingly or joyfully say,
it may never get said.
Equally sad, it may never get heard.
Even if it seems we have all the time in the world,
we never know how much time
we really have.
So when an opportunity arises,
let us not dally.

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