Lessons from redwoods

You cannot “capture” a redwood on your phone in that tiny 2x4 inch screen, no matter how hard you try. Even with the panoramic feature, even with your friend in the photo for scale, you can’t fit it into that two dimensional surface.  Even if you videotape and do a 360 degree turn and pan your camera all up and down.  I don’t think you can fully get the sense even if you had an IMAX 3-D camera.

No, you must come and stand next to one,  sit down at its base while raindrops fall toward you from impossibly high heights so you can watch them form perfect spheres looking like tiny glass balls before they splatter on your forehead.  Even sitting surrounded by hundreds of redwoods in a quiet dripping forest, even then your mind will struggle to take in their enormity.  Not only of size but age. 

Trees live slow lives.  They take their time.  They spend entire seasons simply waiting. Their experiences stretch over centuries.  There's a tree not far from my home that I visit regularly - indeed it's the tree pictured on the cover page of this website - the "Tree of Life", they call it.  It's been there since the 1740s.  My mind cannot fathom how long that really is, and how much the planet has changed since that time, and that's not even super-old for a tree.

Something happens to me when I review my own life - I wonder if this happens to you. I have a habit of forgetting what I’ve accomplished.  My mind tells me stories of all of the ways I avoid and hide and fail to act. When April and tax time comes and I review the year in more detail, I’m always surprised at how much did happen - how many clients I saw, classes I led, retreats I created, places I traveled, when my mind tells me I was just sitting around being lazy.

I haven't been writing as much recently.  I’ve been percolating a lot.  Reading. Thinking. There's so much that feels like upheaval in the world. And try as I might to avoid it, the first few months of 2017 I’ve felt a lot of fear. I don't like to write from a place of fear.

So I went to the redwoods. I asked them for help with my fear. My fear that I’m not doing enough, taking enough action to make the world better, making clearer choices to create peace and safety- to serve the greater good. They seemed bemused and puzzled. They did not have advice for me-- a short-lived soft-bodied human with such a fast-paced life and a speedy metabolism. They don't know what that's like. They don't move through the world. They're grounded firmly in place growing large and tall. When they fall in wind or storms, they simply become the building blocks for the new trees who follow. There's no loss, no tragedy, no remorse.  

The redwoods suggested that I simply keep living. They certainly weren't judging me or my choices. They welcomed me and told me they'd probably be there next time I returned, barring storm or human intervention. They can't be worried about it. That's not what trees do. And I appreciate that while I am not a redwood or an ancient live oak tree and cannot live my life that way, I can take a lesson in slowing down, staying present, and appreciating what is before me.  And that when I am afraid I'm not accomplishing enough, the antidote may actually be to take a break, invite a friend or two, and sit beneath a tree.

 

Maybe you need some juice?

When I was a young girl, my mother told me a story from her childhood about becoming quite ill with dehydration one summer. Her caregivers gave her a tiny cup of juice every 30 minutes, and she described how torturous it felt. She was dangerously dehydrated but the last thing she wanted was to drink. I remember being completely flummoxed by this story.  Why would this happen? Why didn’t she want to drink the juice? How could something so simple and curative feel so hard?

 

Last week I had a revelation about this dehydration and juice thing, in the middle of a session with a client, where this story of the cups of juice became a perfect metaphor for a universal struggle. We resist our cure, not to be difficult, but because when we’re suffering, the antidote is often the most unappealing thing we can imagine.

 

Cups of juice. We just need to get them and drink them. We don’t need to believe that we’ll feel better in the moment, or expect that we’ll actually want the juice even though every cell in our body is parched.

 

photo credit Mark Adams

photo credit Mark Adams

Maybe we could even have some juice on hand— at the ready—so we don’t have to work so hard when our circumstances get rough or our thoughts grow dark.  

 

When we are struggling in small or big ways, we expect to be overjoyed to find a solution - like a drowning person would be about receiving a life ring.  How freeing to realize that’s not necessarily the case.  We have to hold our noses and drink the juice, not feeling saved at all, trusting that our relief may come later.

 

What area of your life is feeling like dehydration? It might be tricky - you won’t always feel the symptoms of dehydration coming on, so you need to get still and listen.

 

Are you missing time for you while you take care of everyone else? Are you putting off something important that feels too hard or too scary? Is your mind producing thoughts that are mean and judgmental? Are you avoiding exercise or bingeing on crappy food?  Are you ignoring your clutter piles? Are you hesitating to address important issues in your relationship?

 

What cup of juice might help, even though it initially feels better to be distracted by your phone, extra activities, bingeing on Netflix or avoidance napping?

 

Is it a walk outside? Making the phone call? Sitting down to write? Going shopping for some fruits and veggies? Throwing out the junk mail? Doing the bookkeeping? Meeting someone for that hard conversation? 

 

Maybe it’s time to let yourself have some juice.

Lessons from a spider

This is the actual spider spinning her web by moonlight.

This is the actual spider spinning her web by moonlight.

Earlier this month while I was in Florida I watched a spider spin her web by moonlight. She is the type of spider who makes a fresh web each night and takes it down in the morning, and she was nearly done with her handiwork.  I didn't see what happened, but a few minutes later the web was broken and completely down.  It might have been a breeze that knocked it or one of the dogs catching the guy wire. I felt terrible once I noticed.  She would have to start completely over! 

The spider probably wasn't sighing.  She wasn't worried.  She simply began the task of rebuilding.  And in an hour or so she was done.  With plenty of time to catch her dinner.

Unlike the spider, I can be very whiny about building things.  I get frustrated with formatting on my computer.  I get annoyed resizing photos and taking all the little steps to move things around on a screen. I especially dislike having to re-do things that I've already done once before.  

But rebuilding is part of what we do. And creating fresh. We can be like the spider and just do it, rather than whining about how hard it is or how it doesn't look right. The spider doesn't care if all her threads are completely evenly spaced, as long as they do the job.  They are close enough.

How freeing to focus on the building and the creation.  How lovely to approach my work this way - don't you agree?

What do you do when you are literally hit by a train?

This week, my husband was hit by a train.  Not a metaphorical train. A real one. 

He was simply on his way home from Lowe's.  It was late, after 9:30.  He crossed at an unmarked railroad crossing, having looked and not seen the train.  Apparently the train was so darn close it was invisible in the dark.  

One second earlier and I would have been a widow, as the slow moving train would have plowed right into the driver side and crushed my dear husband as it dragged the car along the tracks. Instead, the train just clipped the back of the car, tore off the rear bumper and made a mess of the back quarter panel.  

I've tried to puzzle out the meaning of this.  I don't come up with much except wow, I am very grateful, and wow - death really can happen at any time.  We've seen that this week with tragedies of epic proportions in the news, and that doesn't include all the regular people dying all over the planet from disease, accidents, old age, etc. who don't make it into the endless media cycle.

We so want to believe we have time. Lots of time. Plenty of time. Maybe we do, maybe we don't.  

So what's the answer?

For me, it is to get as present as I can. Not later, but now. 

Especially with those I love. Put down the phone.  Look in their eyes.  Really listen.  Be awake and amazed at this wonder of being human together.

Go outside, even when it's uncomfortable.

I have seven (at least) whopping chigger bites. Three clustered under one arm, two on my back, one behind my knee and one right where my leg attaches to my body. They itch like the dickens. I'm relieved to know that there are no chiggers embedded in me, contrary to popular tales, so therefore I do not need to "suffocate" them with clear nail polish or other home remedies. They'll heal on their own in another day or two.

My legs are also scratched up from running into blackberry brambles and cat claw vines. And you know what? It's really not a big deal.

I've learned that sometimes it's worth experiencing a little discomfort for what I gain visiting wild places. Nature brings us so many benefits to body and soul, even when it includes some sweating or bug bites.

I call it the Heidi effect. Heidi lived in the fresh mountain meadows and was a happy healthy little girl. When sickly Clara came to visit her from the sooty big city, Clara grew stronger and became well- just from eating the fresh foods from the farm and drinking in the clear mountain air. Modern research confirms this for us. Nature is so important for our well-being.  

I've been in nature a lot the past week: camping on a sandy beach by a creek under the stars listening to coyotes - I even saw two drift nearly silently through the woods on the other side of the creek - mysterious beautiful creatures! I spent a day exploring a small taste of the Florida Trail, enjoyed jumping in the waves in the Gulf of Mexico, and I loved christening the spring-fed pond on a friend's new land with the first swim of the season.

I've met turtles and snakes, watched the almost-full moon drift over and above the oak trees, and spontaneously danced in a morning rain shower. I've put my toes in clear-blue springs where Ponce de Leon once searched for youth.

In the evenings, we've set intentions, played with paints, talked, feasted and dreamed. For the second part of this beautiful week in nature, I've had a cozy bed to retire to instead of my sleeping bag under the sky. Both are wonderful. Inside is nice when there are thunderstorms, or when you want to stay up late creating or watching back episodes of Alone, a show where people REALLY spend time in nature, surviving in the elements far beyond the discomfort of a chigger bite or two.

Anyway, it's a perfect time to go outside. To explore. To notice. Don't let a little rain or the possibility of an insect bite keep you away from the magic of what you might discover.Grab your bug repellent and an umbrella and go forth.