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The Nature of Things

We're all connected to nature. It's stupid not to think so. Some of us are more connected to it than others. Recently, I had a tree remind me that I am lucky enough to be one of those connected. I saw him from across the stream-turned-river after a glorious and much needed rain in SoCal this past weekend. I'd hiked this area a few times, but never after a heavy rainfall and I was giddy in the glory of the rushing water through the valley floor. As I made my way to the banks of the river to photograph the crap out of it, I noticed him just up river. He was close enough to the river's edge to enjoy the view himself. I reveled in the sights of the rushing water, surprised by how much there was, by how loud it was as it crashed over the rocky riverbed. The water was cold and clean, and painted the river rocks in deep and vibrant color. As I made my way up the path I got a better view of him. He was sad. I don't blame him either, it was obvious that he was dying. Everything around us was alive and thriving, except for him, and he seemed fully aware of that fact. He'd lost a substantially large limb, now lying in a heap in front of him. His view of the river partially blocked by his old self. I could feel his sadness, to the point where writing about it is making me teary eyed. We soon rounded the corner and lost sight of him, but at that moment I swear I heard something, like a whisper, I’m not sure…

The day after a hard rain changes everything, including the paths we normally travel. Though creatures of habit, nature sometimes nudges us to explore new paths. (A bit of a life lesson in there?) So off in new directions we went, not knowing where our path would end or be diverted. We happily found ourselves in new places that day and ran into several dead ends, but all of our adventures lead to new sights, sounds, and discoveries. But little did I realize that I was being pin-balled around this macrocosm until it landed me on the other side of that stream-turned-river and leading me to meet him. There were many stately trees we’d met that day and my dear friend and hiking companion, who’s also a connected one, was gushing over a neighboring tree. She was a beautiful tree, full of strength and life, and my friend ran to hug her. I stood back for some reason, I didn’t have the same call to connect with her as my friend did. And then I heard that whisper again. I took a few steps towards him but my friend insisted I come and meet her tree. “She has so much energy! You have to come and hug her!” So I did, and she was lovely and her soul was warm. But then I sensed he was looking our way, that he felt as if I was rejecting him in the attraction of her liveliness, and his sadness whispered again through the wind. I turned to face his direction and said to my friend, “Now I need to go see that tree,“ and marched my way against the increasing wind to see him.

As I approached I saw the ground was littered all around him with his bones. I carefully stepped around them and made my way to his foundation, which was tired but still stood firm. I wrapped my arms around him, our connection was strong, and I felt him smile. He’d probably been passed by so often by so many who didn’t give him much thought. He was grateful to us for our time. I thanked him for his decades of strength and life and for making it through all the odds against storms and humankind. And then I felt his sense of calm and dignity. His sadness wasn’t because he was dying, his sadness came from being forgotten, for being overlooked. Like everything today we tend to overlook the old, the crooked boned, the broken, and praise only youth and vitality. We forget that the souls of those who have lived for so much longer than us are stronger and full of life and lessons, which is equally (if not more) important to society. I’m grateful that I am so connected to nature and what it can teach us. We all could be if we just close our eyes and listen to the whispers it carries in the wind. This old tree taught me that.

But wait, I’m a tree hugger now?! ;)

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