The Old Sycamore Tree – Blog #5

Bigger size sycamore

It’s been a few months since I posted my last blog. I would have gotten back sooner, but a combination of things kept causing my delay. First off, I moved to Laguna Woods from Long Beach on December 29, 2013, as I explained in my last blog post. It was a mad dash having a little over a month to do it all, but why I chose such a feverish pitch and frantic pace is a different matter. Seems I run on two speeds: Really slow or really fast.

Moving to Laguna was sudden, unpredictable, unplanned and I guess I felt the need for super-woman energy to get me from there to here, afraid that if I stopped to rest, I’d collapse. Funny, that’s what ended up happening.

Jamming at 100 miles an hour with my adrenaline sky high, I unpacked my last box, promptly crashed and was hardly able to move my body, then caught the flu as a letter arrived from the IRS telling me I was being audited. Fear superseded being sick, so I jumped in with both feet, dealt with my audit as best I could and then got sick again, this time, with some voodoo sinus virus.

It’s been a slow recovery, and in a meaningful way, I feel like today is the start of my new year.

During the past few months since I moved, I’ve had this gnawing feeling inside: write your next blog post. Alongside the guilty feelings of not writing was a belief that my delay was somewhat justified. I mean, who could write with all this stuff going on? Well, as I said, I had my excuses.

Actually, there was one other reason: I didn’t know what to write. And to make things worse, I tortured myself with the need to write the perfect thing. So what I got instead was a lot of frustration and needless stress trying to find the perfect subject to write about.

And then last weekend, the subject found me.

Meet Michael.

I took a walk to Aliso Park in the morning, which I’ve done several few times since I moved to Laguna Woods. Finding a bench nestled close to the beautiful winding creek, I was enjoying the ducks playing and diving in the water, and watched in wonder at the graceful transformation of their awkward bodies flying up into the blue cloudless sky.

“How lucky I am to be here,” I thought, witnessing a perfect display of God’s beauty with the grassy knolls, vast variety of trees and sounds of noisy crows and little birds.

In the middle of my reverie, a spirited, nice-looking man in his 60s came bounding down the hill with his Australian Shepherd and struck up a conversation about the spirituality of the park. What really caught my interest, besides this cute, age-appropriate guy suddenly talking to me, was the giant Sycamore tree he was pointing out in the distance. He said the tree has been living in Aliso Park for more than 500 years.

Fascinated, I walked over to the tree with Michael, his dog padding alongside him. Actually, it was more like ambling over, with Michael taking the time to greet everyone crossing our path.

When we stood in front of his majestic old friend, he told me he visits the tree every morning. In two nimble moves, his slim body was straddling the giant lower branch and then he explained while demonstrating, “I jump up here, lie on my back, look up at the sky and talk to God,” punctuating the sky with outstretched arms as he spoke. “You can do this, too!” I smiled, thinking about the injuries it could cause me, but appreciated his enthusiasm and impressive gymnastics for an older guy.

He talked about being connected with a Higher Power, or “whomever you pray to,” as being essential to happiness. Then he shared about being a drug and alcohol counselor and said he just loves his job and I told him that I, too, love what I do for a living: sing and act and hope to include professional writer on that list. We discovered that we share the same length of sobriety: 27 years. And we both happen to be members of the same church, Saddleback.

In the spirit of the moment and feeling enboldened by his contagious behavior, I jumped up from my park bench and announced, “I’m going to sing for you, Michael!”

I think I startled him and as I assumed the more aggressive role, he shifted into a softer spoken man, simply responding, “Sure”.

Without hesitation, I took a deep breath and belted out the gospel song Amazing Grace at the top of my lungs, singing out to the trees and hills, all of the little ducks, to God and to my delight, Michael started singing along in the second verse.

Afterwards, feeling a little self-conscious, I was glad to hear applause from a grey-haired lady strolling by in a walker, and see genuine smiles from passersby. Then leaping off the tree back to the ground, Michael gave me a big bear hug.

“You’ll never know how much I needed that,” he said. I thought I saw a tear in his eye and was relieved to see that my impromptu singing was well-received by my new friend. We were quiet for a moment, both happy to be there.

He told me he lives for spontaneous exchanges like the one we were experiencing. “I seek them out,” he said, and added that the most important thing in life is his relationship with God. Did I mention he has a girlfriend? Yeah, I know. That would have been nice for this “single” writer and a great ending for the story, but no matter, we were having a great time.

He talked passionately about seizing the day and making the most out of life with the gifts we’ve been given. I heartily agreed. I think Michael has a natural talent to guide and counsel others, the way his dog has a natural talent to herd. I suspect it makes them both feel alive.

I thoroughly enjoyed his unexpected company, our lively conversation and the happy spontaneity of two souls meeting on a bright, sunny day in the little park of my new hometown.

Will we meet each other again?

Maybe one morning, I’ll see a man lying in some ancient tree staring up at the sky and I’ll smile to myself and say, “That’s Michael”.



Categories: Uncategorized


  • Carmen Berry says:

    You are such a great story teller, Jo Anne! You swept me into the moment and I could picture it all. You keep going…I’m your enduring fan.
    Carmen Berry

  • Vygis Narbutas says:

    Dear JoAnne,

    Well, I was going to at first say, “Jeez I feel sorry that you went through major living changes, being sick and having the IRS in your face” but then I continued reading. Rainbows do follow the storm… So glad to see you back and writing.

    Much love and peace,

  • Scott & Linda says:

    Great story and nice writing Jo Anne!

  • Corliss Lee says:

    that was thoroughly enjoyable reading. what a great connection. your spirit guides were giving you a treat! .. but yes, I wanted the happy ending… then we made mad passionate love under that tree … and we lived happily ever after. Just funnin you… in this case, truth was better than fiction. I love that you burst into song. And OMG… what a great story to share.

  • You have painted a wonderful experience with words. Thanks JoAnne

  • Sandy Sherman says:

    What a beautiful, heartwarming story! It may seem like a coincidence to have met each other, but I’ve heard it said that “coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous”. .

    Much love and blessings and I look forward to reading more..

  • roger says:

    Amazing how The One Who Is appears when least expected. Nice, Jo Anne, very nice.

  • Laura Powers says:

    Great story and a magic moment. It’s funny how sometimes there are special people in unexpected places. It’s a nice reminder that we have some “Michael” in us, too. Thanks for sharing!

  • I normally delete a lot of e-mails out of my in box first thing in the morning so I can get to my business e-mails and of course get to work, however, this morning I was pulled in to your blog so much that I sat at my desk in a trance reading your story. You have a real gift, please don’t stop.

  • Margie Ono Jones says:

    Beautifully written, Jo Anne! I had been waiting to hear about your move. I’m delighted you are writing again and finding joy in your new home and community. On a recent road trip with my sister and two other friends (we all knew you back in Inglewood) we listened to your “Hometown Beauty Queen” CD. After it finished, I started to eject it and one of them said, “No, I want to hear it again!” Everyone commented on how beautiful and touching each song was. I hope your memoir (of the same name) finds its way to a publisher soon. Looking forward to your next blog! – Margie

    • JoAnne says:

      What a fun road trip! Thank you for sharing the HBQ cd story. That’s really cool.
      Life is a road trip, isn’t it? Happy trails to you always, Margie.

  • Molly says:

    What a wonderful story! I LOVE the idea of embracing whatever comes along on the path and more importantly being able to ~recognize~ whatever wisdom it may hold for us. Glad to hear you’re making it through challenges, and I bet you can find the lesson in it all. ~Peace & Namaste Joanne~

  • LaVera says:

    I loved every single word! What a beautifully told story!! My husband and I often break into song. Our children quit being surprised by this a long time ago and now, most of the time, will even join in. Our teenage granddaughter rolls her eyes a lot when she’s out with us and we break into song; but one day, I’m sure, she’ll join in! Thanks for making me feel normal!

    • JoAnne says:

      Hi La Vera. How fun that you and your husband break out into song. The family that sings together, stays together! It’s hard to stay mad at someone when you’re singing with them. I love that you shared that story.

  • Vida Jackson says:

    Great story…wish he had been available

  • Bill Spillman says:

    She walked with her feet never touching the ground,
    Swaying with the gentle breeze;
    Time stood still, there was nary a sound,
    As she beckoned me under the trees.

    Great story Jo!

  • Joanie Fox says:

    Loved your story. Hope you get to connect with Michael again but even more than that, I pray that your connection with Jesus will continue to grow stronger everyday…I love you Sis.

  • Kathy Bates says:

    Yep, you swept me in, too. Beautiful!

  • Valerie says:

    So nice to re-connect with you and read all your blogs. I’m sure you’ll find lots of inspiration in Laguna Hills — such a beautiful area and neat artsy village. Stay open to all the possibilities, and expect magic and miracles!

  • Bestie Bert says:

    When we are “Open” we are so much abler (is that a word?) so much more
    willing, and ready to “let in ” the many magical insodental moments that are
    constantly available, yet often overlooked in our daily routines! or should I say
    RUTS? It’s so important to feed our souls with these moments!! Sweet Sista! Reading
    this piece made me feel like you were here reading to me! What an absolute DELIGHT!
    Really miss you!!!! b

  • You can certainly see your enthusiasm within the article you write.
    The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are
    not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  • Diane Brock Grillas says:

    There are no coincidences ; )

  • Linda younts says:

    Love your blogs…this one especially…#5. Amazing how in an instant a stranger can touch our lives…you do that! It happened to me yesterday at the farmers market while waiting in checkout (nothing romantic and no tree involved). Anyway, I’ve heard you sing “amazing grace” accapella…what a moment for all those in the park! The guests at moms party are still talking about your beautiful voice. I’ve signed up and eagerly await your next blog. BTW did I mention I was a big fan of Hoyt Axton!

Leave a Reply