(This article in Holston’s much-loved series Law Man Walking appeared in D Magazine’s FRONTBURNER on April 6, 2020.)
I felt like last week I was falling into the rhythm with my sometimes remote schedule. Thursday morning, I drove up to Spring Creek in Garland for a hike before I headed into the office. We are all working remotely unless we need to deliver critical aid to our clients. It was a nice 60 degrees as I headed up Shiloh. I put a travel mug of Cultivar Coffee in my day pack and drove off.
I started down the paved trail and then headed across a patch of native prairie. It burned this last fall, and it’s fun to see the entire area covered in green now. The Yuccas are starting to send up stalks, and the first of the Indian Paintbrush is blooming.
I took the trail under Garland Avenue. A few months ago, a large Pecan shed a big piece of its trunk and pushed another large tree all the way horizontal to the ground. I stood looking at it, and noticed that the tree is sending new growth straight vertical from the now horizontal trunk. The tree is adapting to a new reality. That’s what we are all doing. Perhaps you are adapting to a layoff and figuring out how to survive, or you are my friends Matt Tobin and Josh Yingling, who overnight revamped their entire business plan and shifted to a new name: Good Citizen, with a new menu and curbside delivery. Or you’re the crew at Cultivar Coffee, who had to shut one store and shift to curbside delivery.
Our agency has had to shift quickly. We are, like many of you, doing all meetings as Zoom meetings. We just conducted our first virtual training of lawyers by Zoom. We have set up tables outside to distribute grocery cards and toiletry bags to our clients. We started investigating how we could do remote legal services for individuals stuck in Mexico. The point is, we are all adapting. We are all accepting new realities and surviving, just like the big Pecan tree.
I made my way up a hill, and entered a great hardwood Oak forest. I walked, my pants getting wet from the dew and rains of the last few days. The Viburnum is mostly past blooming, as is the Groundsel. But the Virginia Wild Rye is green and lush. I crossed two small intermittent streams, made my way under towering Red Oaks to the spot where I make my way down to the creek. I sat, recited the Shema Israel, and read a Psalm. I sat in quiet and wrote in my journal.
I reflected on something I’d read online. No, not another apocalyptic prediction, but a question: ‘What if you knew you had only a short time to live? What would you do?’ I was struck by something with incredible gratitude. This is what I’d do: I’d spend time with my wife, Jill, I’d go hiking every morning, and I’d do this work with our immigrant clients. I’d continue to work with the great siblings from all of the other advocacy groups. And I’d tell my friends I love them. Well, I hope I have more years ahead, but it’s reassuring to know that my life right now is what I would do if I knew it was coming to and end. I’m really thankful for that.
This Lent, I’m writing daily notes to people I admire. I’ve written my friend Tim Rogers. I’ve written other journalists. I’ve written many of the great spiritual leaders in our city: Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Rev. Michael Waters, Eric Folkerth, and many other people I know. It has been a great, rewarding experience.
As I sat, just listening to the flowing water, I detected movement in my peripheral vision. I glanced up to see two Canada Geese floating by, apparently unaware, or at least unconcerned, with my presence. I smiled, knowing that this was a special moment, one of those rare glimpses of wildness that I seek when I head to the woods. I watched them as they stood, walked a few steps, and then, with the grace of a bird that has seen much of North America in its day, floated downstream to adventures I’ll never know about.
I packed up my pack and headed to the car. I turned on my data for email and read the first of many. I headed to the office to see my strong, resilient staff distributing grocery cards and toiletry bags. I sat and talked to one client, a gay asylum seeker, about how he was doing and about his hopes for the future. And if I don’t live another week (and I hope I do), that day was enough. And there is much grace in that thought.