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.