Day 155 - Conversations with Trees
I was hiking yesterday alone in the mountains. Mountains that just two years ago were engulfed in flames. Completely consumed by fire. I was and am continually amazed at the regrowth. How much everything has blossomed and thrived after being decimated.
While I was hiking yesterday I was struck by this oak tree whose trunk was completely black, charred. Completely scorched from the trunk to the smallest of branches. Yet it was thriving. The leaves in full force and blossoming with new growth and spring time fanfare. It was such a stark contrast, the blackness of the trunk and the verdant green of the leaves. It stopped me in my tracks.
As I stood looking at the tree and its glorious survival, the thought came to me that this happens to people all the time. That the fires and trials of life, scar us, cake us in charcoal and yet we thrive. We grow, we change. We blossom in spite of all the hardship, difficulty and marring.
I looked around and many of the other trees in the area were also thriving despite the burn scars. But there were several others that were not so lucky. The fire consumed them and left them as hollowed out skeletons. No life grew there. Vibrancy and vivaciousness was gone.
The thought that came to me next was that we are so like trees. Some of us capable of withstanding the fires of life and others of us consumed. What was it about the ones that survived that allowed them to not only prevail but flourish? What did this one beautiful tree possess that the others did not?
I came to realize that life comes at us all and takes us as we are. Some of us more vulnerable emotionally, physically than others. Some of us rooted in place, unable to take the circumstances of our lives to make changes and instead digging in and more firmly planting ourselves in the dysfunction that surrounds us.
This tree was amazing. Somehow it took the charring and made it into a cocoon that healed it from the inside out and using the crusty exterior to provide shelter for the healing that was occurring inside. It used its scars to help it heal.
It occurred to me that my life was very much like that tree. That I have been able to take the fires of my own life and use them for my own healing. Allowing the hardness of my exterior to protect and grow the soft interior. I stood there viewing this amazing tree and seeing my own growth, my own survival. There have been so many things, so many fires that could have been my undoing. My end. I could have withered in the flames. Perished instead of thrived.
But what came to me was the understanding that I was stronger than all I survived. Resilience my path. The consumption of hardship, my path towards growth, peace and acceptance. I could have just as easily taken the road where I allowed all that happened to curtail my growth, to kill me. But the scars became my protector, my buffer when the fires burned. The scars evincing that I am stronger than all that I survived.
As I stood there marveling at the tree, I was flooded with gratitude. Gratitude for every lesson, heartbreak, every desperate thing that I wanted to go a certain way that in fact went another. It was almost like I caught up with myself on that trail, the tree reminding me that fires happen, there is some choice involved. I know that the tree fought valiantly for its survival, having to go within in order to summon the strength to continue rather than succumb.
I realized that I have a lot to learn from trees. Their metaphorical presence in my life more than just a passing view as scenery. They providing me structure and purpose for my life and survival. Grateful for their shelter, their beauty and their resilience.
As I walked on, I cried. I don’t know why this tree on my path, one that I passed last weekend on the same hike that I didn’t even notice, so got to me yesterday. Why I found such depth and meaning there. I just know that I did. I was moved. I was in touch with my own vulnerability by witnessing this tree’s survival from the firery exposure. I saw myself in its branches, its foliage and trunk, its root structure. But unlike the tree, I am capable of not being fixed in place. I was capable of hiking to the top of the mountain and taking in vistas the tree will never see. On my way back down the mountain, I stopped again, I told the tree what I saw from the mountain top. I commented on its growth and thanked it for its effort to survive. Somehow I wanted it to know how much its survival impacted my own. Gave me a boost on my journey. I saw that I was allowed to move, to meander, to flee. I thought about how hard it would be to be firmly rooted in place when the fire came. Having no choice but to stand tall within the flames. I was grateful for my legs, for my mobility, for my ability to move. On the trail, through pain and fire and hardship. I saw the benefit of remaining and the benefit of movement. I became immensely grateful for my ability to do both.
The wind grew colder as rain blew in, lighting dusting the mountainside. I thanked the tree for its conversation, for showing me things about myself that before I did not see. As I moved along on the path, I realized that I, like the tree, have been able to accept the fires that come and go within for strength. I walked the remaining hike in comfort to know that my strength was formidable as an oak tree on a mountain side.