On trees and deeper understanding
I wrote recently about how things are changing for me. It's been a wild ride this month for sure. This past weekend, I spent a day wandering through the gardens and forests at Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. I went specifically looking for some insights, because I know that nature cycles in ways that closely reflect the human experience. I was too close to my own issues to see clearly, but nature never hides what she's thinking and doing. It just requires looking in the right places. In deciduous forests, we find trees growing together in close community. Tall, strong mama trees shelter their younger trees. These baby trees are shaded by the dense canopy and reach to get a glimpse of sunshine on their tender green leaves. Underground, the baby trees find limited space to spread out their roots and seek the nutrients and minerals they need for building strong structures. Given all we know of trees and how they grow, it is a wonder that these saplings survive to become their own part of the canopy.
But here is the magic. The elder trees in the community provide the baby trees with the necessary sugar and nutrients. Using soil microbes and beneficial fungi, the mama tree feeds her babies through the roots. Electrical impulses send messages of warning for impending insect invasion or of seasonal changes. With their strong branches and powerful roots, mama trees offer protection against the cold winter winds and the torrential summer storms.
Young trees grow slowly, build strong, stocky trunks, and expansive webs of root interconnection. They don’t spend precious resources on growing taller, on flowering, and producing seed. This activity is saved for the more mature trees.
The young trees wait for their moment with eager anticipation. Once a mama tree passes on, it opens a space in the forest canopy, allowing that precious sunshine to reach the leaves that had been so shaded by the mama tree’s leaf growth. The baby tree feels a surge of sugars and energy, and puts all of that into growing taller to be the first to fill in the opening in the canopy.
The circle continues. The mama tree returns her body to the soil to nourish the saplings. Her offspring become the new elders, and they will share her wisdom with them for generations to come.
Trees are amazing beings. They are far more wise than we imagine, and they understand the benefits of living deliberately, of taking their time. We should be more like trees, and less like the fireworks in a holiday celebration.
Why this story? It has parallels to how I’m making changes with my herbal work. This herbal work is my sapling. My work on Orion is my mama tree. She is busy gathering the energy, the wisdom, and the experience that comes from reaching for the sun (and moon!). My sapling is developing resilience and strength. It is learning how to be in the world, all while protected from danger by the dense canopy and the strong roots. I’ve not abandoned my herbal practice, and I have not closed it. It is simply waiting for its moment in the sun, as my other work is reaching for the moon.
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