My Favorite Tree, and How It Reminds Me Of You

The first time I saw the old tree, I felt sorry for it.

Obviously once a hulking, massive specimen, now it’s buckled and broken and bowed to the ground. If you can imagine a tree with a trunk so wide that it would take two (or more) people with arms outstretched to reach all the way around it, that’s the size of this tree.

Unfortunately, we can’t try to reach our arms all the way around it. Because this tree’s trunk isn’t in one piece.

Instead, it’s split in two, causing half of its branches to sink themselves into the earth on one side, and half on the other. And so the canopy of the tree is now at eye-level, where many hands and many years have removed bark and exposed and softened the wood underneath.

The tree has fallen apart gracefully, though, creating a sort of twisted archway that leaves plenty of room to walk around and under. The ground under the arches is grassless and well-worn.

You can climb up and through the split trunk to the other side – if you’re willing to risk the spiders. We noticed over the weekend that a bird has decided to nest in a nook just over our heads. There are teeny-tiny insect holes, and bits that have been hollowed out by woodpeckers. It’s the home for plenty of critters.

In fact, it was as I was showing my son the various bugs and mushrooms and lichens and other living creatures called this tree home that I discovered the most miraculous thing about this tree.

Just as I had pointed out to him all of the creatures living in the tree, I pointed out how many trees now grow up and around it – and together we looked up at the sky to admire the canopy above. (Well, I admired it. He humored me.)

I pointed out one particularly large tree. With its many branches and strong, straight trunk, it seemed like a good foil for the fallen, dead, twisted tree. I thought maybe we could compare the organisms living on this younger, newer tree with the ones growing on the old, dead one.

Never one to let a good teaching opportunity go to waste, together he and I started at the treetops and traced the trunk of this younger tree all the way down, to see where it was growing out of the ground.

Honestly, it looked like it was growing directly behind the fallen tree. It seemed like the fallen tree’s branch archway would make a perfect window for us to see where this younger tree had planted itself.

But … it wasn’t.

We should have been able to see the younger tree through that archway. After all, the younger tree was growing directly above it. But instead, the younger tree’s trunk just … disappeared. Like a magic trick.

Where the younger tree’s trunk should be, there was nothing but dirt and air.

That’s so odd, I said.

We walked closer to investigate, and went under the archway to figure out where the younger tree’s missing pieces had gone.

And that’s when I saw it.

The younger tree was growing out of the fallen one.

It wasn’t a younger tree at all.

It was merely part of this hulking, massive, fallen tree that – even after being split, and bent, and torn apart – was still very much alive. It had found a way to grow strong from the broken bits.

And after everything that had happened to it, it was still reaching for the sky.

I love that tree even more, now.

This weekend we went on our regular walk, and I once again stopped to admire my favorite tree. And I thought of you.

So much of our country is broken, and twisted, and splintered into pieces.

It’s so damaged that, looking at it from one angle, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s too far gone.

But if you look a little closer, you can see that it’s very much alive. You can see people like you who are still fighting for justice, still pushing for democracy, and still reaching for the sky.

To me, that’s the proof that – no matter what it looks like on the outside – the lifeblood of this country is still strong. We might look a little … scruffy.

And there’s no denying the fractures, and the wounds, and the decay.

But we’re not done. Not by a long shot.

Not as long as you’re still around.

You’re the proof that our country still lives, and breathes, and carries on.

And on that note…

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of January 31, 2023

Urgent Postcards to Voters Deadline (today, or tomorrow if you’re in Penn or surrounding)

Democrats in Pennsylvania will be voting February 7 in three Special Elections.  We’re down to fewer than 12,800 addresses between the two remaining lists.  (All of the addresses for Joe McAndrew have been assigned.)  You’re receiving this email because we really need to get these fun, friendly election reminders in the mail ASAP.  Mailing deadline is Tuesday, January 31 unless you live in Pennsylvania or in an adjacent state.  If that’s your location, you have until Wednesday to get your cards in the mail.

If you have stamps on hand now, please write to 5 voters for each, Matt Gergely and Abigail Salisbury, each running for two PA House seats.

If you have your postcards and postage ready today, ask Abby the Address Bot for writing instructions and voters’ addresses:

No, the Pandemic is Not Over

You’ve probably heard that Biden has decided that the COVID state of emergency will end in May. You might also wonder what, exactly, that means. This site has an excellent explanation of what ending the emergency will do to upend our medical system.

I think Joe Biden has done a great job as president. But this is a very bad move.

Last week over 3,700 people died from Covid in the US. ( You don’t hear about that much anymore, because – sadly – that’s become the static noise in the background.

So I take serious issue with anyone who thinks the emergency is over and we can just carry on as normal. The fact is that we should not – and eliminating the protections that are available to folks because of the Emergency Order is terrible, terrible policy.

So, you can head over to this petition/letter to sign:

I’ll be following up next week with more we can do about this. In the meantime, you can also call your Congresscritter to tell them you oppose this move.

Local Police, Local Progress

Tyre Nichols’ death is an abomination. I am hopeful that it will spur more local communities into action. It’s in local communities where decisions about police departments and policing are made.

Your voice is stronger in your own city and county.

So rather than encouraging you to call your congresscritters and urge them to pass legislation (which they should also do) I wanted to encourage you to call your local officials to ask them: what are you doing to reform policing and public safety?

There are resources that local officials can use to guide their policymaking. And you can help them do it! Go to Local Progress here: and to the Conference of Mayors here: for some of their policy recommendations.

Find the Anti-Trans Bills in Your State

Hat tip to Rogan’s List for this one! There’s a sustained anti-trans effort from GOP state legislators across the country. It’s really hard to know what bills are on deck – by design. These bills have the potential to move fast in Republican trifecta states, so it’s important to know what’s going on in your state. This resource from the ACLU is wonderful for keeping tabs on various pieces of anti-trans legislation in states.

Now that you can see what bills are going through your state legislature, please pick up the phone and call your state Rep – even if they are a Republican. Far too often GOP members don’t hear from anyone but the folks that are already in their echo chamber. Give them a different perspective!


If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

P.P.S: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

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