Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bark, Rings, Roots

Quick, think of someone you really don’t like. Visualize them in your minds eye, take in their entire being, feel them, smell them, and then tell me…what kind of tree would they be?

I was driving home from an event not too far in the distant past, wondering about judgments and exactly how it is people come to the conclusions they do about others. I like you, I don’t like you, you annoy me, you’re too loud, you’re too meek, I love you, you drive me bonkers, I have no patience for you, I have compassion for you…you get the picture.

On that particular spring day, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the myriad of naked trees I was passing on country roads and in farm fields. As I beheld their majesty and strength, their ability to stand strong against so many forces, and at the solitary nature of their existence, I started to see them as people.

A tree reaches its branches to the sky in longing. It hopes and dreams of reaching maturation, extending itself toward the heavens, the sun, the rain, all the things it needs to survive. Not so different than any of us, I think. In our more hopeful moments, our more open times, we too extend our arms with expectations, hopes, and aspirations, wondering if we will survive through the seasons, all the ups and downs of life, while still keeping our arms reaching toward optimism.

The tree is covered in bark. It has a shell, a hard, protective mechanism to help it on its way to maturation, protecting the inner soft, vulnerable core. You might not see our bark at first, our rough spots around the edges, but you will. And sometimes you will spot it right away because it is impossible to hide. Our bark is our bite, coming out in our behaviors, sometimes in ways we least expect. Our lies, our truths, the protection of ourselves from others, our not striving for our dreams in fear of the hurts that might come along with that, our addictions, our disorders, our failures, our mistakes, our emotions, our reactions…here is where you find our armor.

Ah, and now we scratch the surface, digging deeper into the core, where there is no refuge, only flesh and the rings of our life. What are the rings that make up your life? What do those circles of years really mean? Were they hard fought or joyous? Do those rings represent pain? Sadness? Deep reverence for life? Love? All of the above? Every ring is a mark around our souls; they each played a sacred part in the dance of who we are today.

Our roots are in search of nutrients and sustenance, they are the foundation for the potential that we are. Do we water our roots? Do we tend to them, and fertilize them; letting them stretch and send shooters out in all of the directions they feel drawn to often enough? Or do we stand on them, neglecting our deepest essence, hoping beyond hope that it is strong enough to hold firm regardless of our inattention?

Yes, I think each and every one of us share our marrow with that of a tree; a maple, an aspen, a weeping willow…and you know, it is pretty easy to find compassion for a tree.

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