Years ago, on a walk in the woods in a thunderstorm, a tree came rumbling down behind me. I felt the last of its piney canopies grace my back as thunder shook the sky, but I didn't even realize what had happened until I'd circled back around. I came back for its bark and gooey shards. I still keep them in a jar, and anticipate eventually realizing something wizard-like to do with them.
Just the other night, a tree fell in my backyard in another storm. I'd planned to take it down, but the wind did it for me. It got me to thinking about the cycles of nature and fertility as I trimmed it down and buried it in garden beds and compost piles.
Sometimes we can grow for what seems like a long time in one direction. Sometimes we cling on, rootless and brittle, in a form no longer wise and a landscape no longer nurturing us.
I think trees are falling in our hearts all the time. We live in a media-driven world of praise and devastation constantly at our fingertips. We live in a nature-divorced world of modern brilliance and destruction available with convenience 24 hours a day. Regardless of how we are called to engage politically on any number of issues, there always seems to be something to be angry about, something to feel powerless in the face of, and something terrible just about to happen if we don't stretch ourselves even thinner to react perfectly.
If we aren't careful, we'll clear cut right through our hearts.
I've been there before. I've been frozen by anger and polemical reaction in geographies of burned bridges and exploitative relationships. It's a lonely mental landscape to be trapped in, whether you have cleared it yourself or slowly found yourself overrun by parasitic grazers giving back so little and quieting your impulses to growth with each next chomp.
In this era, we have to take back control of our own resilience if we are to survive. We have to learn to think like forest ecosystems. We have to down the trees who no longer serve us, and vitally, we must tend the trees we wish to see grow. There's a metaphysics to this work that isn't always intuitive to us. We all fail. We all stumble into dumb luck.
In my own life right now, the launch of this massage practice is a young sapling I am tending. I planted the seed of growing my own independent practice years ago, and at times, as she was surrounded by dark earth, I forgot that she was even buried there in the garden. I doubted whether she would ever sprout above the soil horizon. Still, seeds believe in sunlight, and there's a lesson about faith and patience to be learned there.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared about how well she will grow, or if I said I didn't miss some of the trees that grew in my garden before her. Some of those trees I have downed myself, and others have fallen for other reasons. As the gardener of this space though, the best I can do is keep working with what is alive before me. Past trees and flowers and worlds of ours are beautiful memories, yes, but also fertile soil for new growth.
I'm ready for this practice to thrive. And given the soil conditions she is growing in, I have so much faith that she will.
The next time an abrupt change shakes you, the next time you find yourself in a mental space where you cannot thrive, take stock of your inner forest. What trees need to be composted? What trees need an extra hand? Find fertility in decay, in death, and in change. Give back to the land, tend the future you want to see.
Care for the forest in your heart.