(An experience during my ten-day silent retreat, while walking in the woods.)
Hello tree… I said as I realized I sounded like a crazy person, or at least like the sort of person I would have previously thought crazy. Hello.
You look so sad. I’m so sorry you’re just leaning there, lifeless, full of holes, no branches, no leaves, no bark, just rotting away. How sad to just be there decaying, with no purpose, no meaning. What happened?
I bet you used to be a big deal in these woods. You must have been very tall and straight, powerful and full of life and possibility. You must have housed hundreds of birds, thousands of insects. You provided shade and shelter to animals, and small delicate plants, you dropped your leaves every year to fertilize the soil, you had deep roots, the very model of strength and stability. What happened that you lost it all? How sad to see you like this now.
I am not sad, said the tree. I was a big deal in these woods. I have been very tall and straight, powerful and full of life and possibility. I have in fact, housed thousands of birds and millions of insects. I had the honor of providing shade and shelter to animals, and small delicate plants. I was happy to drop my leaves every year to fertilize the soil, and yes, I was blessed with deep roots, so strong and stable.
I am still full of life, I am full of holes and many animals and insects still make use of me, as I ever so slowly continue to feed the soil for new life to spring up, full of endless possibility. I will never die, I simply change with the times to accommodate my highest purpose in this moment. It is my joy to be here, still beautifying the woods, sill providing what I can provide. And in my later years, to be a teacher to all who seek my wisdom. Thank you for visiting me.
What happened to you, my human friend, that you see sadness here? How sad that is.
As I burst into tears, I said thank you to the tree. Oh Tree, it’s me who is sad, that is my sadness I see as I look at you. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, so that I might live as greatly as you. That I might be always serving in the best way I can to support, shelter, feed, nurture and love others. That I might always contribute what I can that is needed in each moment. That I may know my purpose and share my many blessings with all who pass by.
As my sadness faded, I felt the underlying fear arise in my body, that was hiding beneath the sadness. The fear that I would waste my most vibrant years and die alone in the woods unappreciated and unused. As I studied the tree further, and appreciated the beauty of its state – the soft bark-less wood, the perfect holes showing how much life still happens here, the graceful stance, even as it leans but would not fall.
As the fear faded away, my body replaced it with goosebumps of excited possibility and tears of joy.