be a tree

Updated: Jan 23

I've been fascinated by trees lately. They carry wisdom, growth, and patience that accumulates to an intelligence humans may never reach— and we are just beginning to understand them. I'm reading The Hidden Life of Trees, borrowed from a friend, and each chapter is packed full of mind-blowing concepts and imagery.

I reflect on the creation of Taoism: when a man walking through the woods during a snowfall compares the reception of snow each tree took. He notices how some branches bend to handle the weight, while others, stiff and stubborn, snap. He then realizes that humans must be as the flexible trees; we must flow.

But this is just the start. For trees can teach us so much if we could just learn how to listen. This book is encouraging me to do just that.

By listening to the trees, I have been better able to listen to myself. Coming back from Paris so suddenly sent me into shock, and with this came a sense of grief. Paris allowed me to grow in so many ways. I could feel myself expanding through little everyday choices and thoughts. The aura of the city, as well as the friends I made, kept me inspired and creative at all times. The place really does have something special and there is a reason generations upon generations of artists have resided there. I miss it terribly.

But sulking over this wouldn't do me any good. I had no choice but to leave. Besides, I was so grateful to be home with my family and to be safe. For awhile I wasn't sure if I would've made it home. But I did. And this has to mean something.

I can't help but connect it to something I learned in this book.

One chapter discusses growth. If young trees were left to their own devices, they would grow at insane rates, absorbing as much space and sunlight as possible. While this may seem logical, it is not beneficial to the young plant at all and the mother tree quickly prevents this.

The mother tree supports many neighbors through her roots, supplying important nutrients and life skills. She purposefully stops the smaller ones from growing to ensure their proper progression. When they are forced to remain the same height, young trees grow thick and strong because the majority of their growth goes to their trunk.

Additionally, in the process, they are watching the mother tree live and taking note of how she adapts to her environment— how she retains and uses water; how she defends her bark from predators. The children always have someone to rely on.

When the mother tree decides the young one is ready to be set free, she dies to make room. Now, finally, the child has the chance it has always wanted and it begins to grow as quickly as it can.

And they do that, for awhile, until neighboring trees take advantage of the new space and prevent the child from growing. In a way, they become the new parents and monitor the little tree. The young trees can easily become overwhelmed and not grow properly if no one is there to teach them otherwise. If they are not strong and durable, they will not live into old age. So the young trees wait again, oftentimes many decades, for the opportunity to grow higher and wider. Growth is a slow process in which trust and patience is required.

My return trip from Paris is exactly this.

France was me growing as rapidly as I could, absorbing as many things as I could grab. But maybe I wasn't ready for all of that. Maybe I couldn't keep up. Someone or something is looking out for me. They're afraid I won't be strong or durable.

Now I am home, and in a place of rest and familiarity. This doesn't mean growth has stopped, but rather being pushed in a different direction. Paris was enough to act as a catalyst. I experienced so many new things and was discovering so much of myself. I picked up new habits and interests that have now carried me here. This is really a time to reflect and be with myself— to connect with nature and my creativity. Stillness is just as important as movement. I must be patient and trust. I must be a tree. We all must be trees.

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