A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Golden Festival 2013, Greenwood Cemetery, Raya Brass Band
We recently spent a weekend in Brooklyn. Older son was playing with Raya Brass Band in the annual Golden Festival — two nights of music and dancing. Balkan folk music comes in many forms and celebrates the joy, sadness, and complexity that makes life on earth so sweet.
By Saturday night the festival was in full swing, the sound level and crowds were intense. In one room, an enormous chandelier danced up and down to the beat.
So on Sunday, needing some quiet time, we took a short walk through Brooklyn’s Greenwood cemetery. Our goal was to find Leonard Bernstein’s grave. After a weekend of music, it seemed fitting to pay homage to the maestro.
As we walked through, I wondered about the less famous people buried here. Who were they? Who was missing them? What had they done with their time on earth — and, for that matter, what am I doing right now with mine?
The gravestones provided some information.
But no specific answers. At least not to the questions I was pondering.
But then we came upon this tree with elephantine roots, its grip on the ground made stronger by the passing years.
“Grab on to this awe-inspiring, irreplaceable planet with both hands,” it seemed to say. “We are privileged to live here. Celebrate your beautiful life!”
Before we got in the car, I stood and listened. After two nights loaded with boisterous music, the only sound I heard was the wind rustling through the dried branches overhead. The earth was singing.