The Smartest Tree I’ve Ever Met

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Humans have a lot to learn.

Our eyes can only see so many colors. Our ears can only hear a few select frequencies. In the grand scheme of things, we know next to nothing about life in the universe. Our perception is limited, and that can be infuriating. It’s easier to just pretend we know everything.

Sometimes, having this kind of vulnerability scares me. I overcompensate for it by trying to do everything, defying my nature. I act like I’m invincible and don’t have needs…until shit hits the fan and I burn out.

Trees are the exact opposite of humans. I like the way they do things.

I breathe in oxygen (yay) and breathe out carbon dioxide (gross). Trees do it backwards: they inhale carbon dioxide (gross) and exhale fresh air (yay).

I’m soft and sensitive; trees are hard and tough. I’m movable and clumsy; they’re strong and firmly grounded. I can’t make up my goddamn mind. Trees don’t see the need to.

It doesn’t take much to hurt a human, but it takes a lot to end a tree.

Trees are carved into, spray painted, and mutilated. They keep growing.

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A few months ago in Griffith Park, I noticed a little sycamore tree with a badly charred trunk. It had hundreds of bright green leaves sprouting through its own ashes.

The tree’s deepest trauma became a rich bed of nutrients for its most beautiful gift. That’s a superpower I’d like to borrow.

Life with no direction didn’t always bother me so much. Mystery used to excite me more than scare me. Self-care was a daily treasure, not a shameful aversion. Self-compassion was not frowned upon as self-indulgence. Adulthood changed the way I treat myself, and not for the better.

These past few weeks have been overwhelming, in good and bad ways. With so many great changes coming on, I’ve lost a great deal of sleep. I’ve forgotten meals. I’ve ignored the things that fuel me, in favor of things that deplete me. I’ve spent one too many mornings crying from exhaustion.

On one such morning (okay, this morning), I tried to recall the last time I took a walk in the park for no reason. I realized it was months ago, the day I saw the burnt tree.

It’s important to remember how little I know.

When the thought of insignificance makes me fearful, I’m an asshole to myself. But when I appreciate my smallness, anxiety disappears.

Ego is abusive. Self-compassion is motivating. A tree won’t deny itself sunlight. She’ll grow around obstacles to reach it, and that takes a lot of patience and self-care.

So, that’s what this week is all about – being nicer to myself.

You’re welcome to join me. 

Trees are great teachers: By taking in the things we need, we’ll be better at bringing fresh air to others. Our roots will run so deep that we’ll be able to endure the fire, when it comes. This kind of strength requires water, air, rest, and self-compassion.

When I decide to make myself happy first, I feel better if/when things don’t work out in other areas.

When I choose to see myself the way that I see all of you, it gets easier to say “good job” and “relax.”

So…good job. Relax. Go outside.

Okay.

xo

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