Lessons from Trees
I grew up in a small town in middle Tennessee. While I missed out on the big city life, I instead received the gift of always having access to nature. Many summer afternoons found me exploring in the woods--building a pretend house, searching for a mysterious person as I tried on the role of private investigator, picking wildflowers and rubbing the leaves of a sassafras plant to generate a sweet lemony scent.
The woods felt like a safe respite. No other kids to see my hand me down clothes and chant “four eyes” when I walked by. No adults exchanging barbs or conveying messages through me. No fridge full of food calling me to eat until my feelings were stuffed away. Just me and the shade, me and the moss, me and the birds and insects. Me and the trees.
Decades later, a counselor asked me to think of a safe space. She wanted me to have a haven to retreat to when my healing journey overwhelmed me. It’s no wonder my image was that of a tree perched on a grassy riverbank. An image of a soft breeze as I leaned against the tree and listened to the water dance over pebbles. I call that place Sanctuary.
One decade more and it’s no wonder I find myself touching trees. When I filed divorce paperwork a few years ago, I left the courthouse and as I walked to my car, I passed a row of trees. I stopped in my tracks and leaned my palm against the smooth bark. The steadfastness of the tree reminded me that this too would pass. I remembered that every time I’d gone through something awful, something even better was waiting for me. Be steady. Be patient. Just wait.
During the COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve taken daily walks. There is a special tree near the waterfalls. My tree. I sometimes lean on her, but most often I just stop for a moment to caress her rough exterior. I whisper, “Yes, thank you” and continue my walk. She is a touchstone, always present. A reminder for me to be present.
Last week I discovered a local jewelry store. The owners are retiring and everything is marked down. I’m sad to see a staple of the community close its doors, but I do love a good sale, especially since my job was eliminated 2 weeks ago. I found a beautiful silver ring of a large oak tree. 60% off. Sold. It seems fitting that I mark this time: the move to South Carolina, the pandemic, the job loss. The tree again sends me a message. Because I have deep roots, I can sway with the changes. Parts of me may break away, but I’m still alive and strong.
What other lessons would you add? What do you learn from the trees or is there some other element of nature that speaks to you?