Recently I bought a hammock to use in my backyard. It is one of those fabric hammocks with a metal stand so I can move it from shade to sun. Last week while enjoying the shade of my giant silver maple tree, I had one of those existential moments again. I had never taken the time to really look at this gorgeous, probably 150 year old tree (my house is 107 years old so that probably is not a stretch!). That windy afternoon, I finally made the time to give it some thought.
I saw the roots, so important, as they go deep into the earth; the large, established trunk with layers of years of life on it; the branches, extending to the sun; the twigs, swaying in the breeze, holding tight though they look as though they could snap off at any moment; and the leaves, new and perfectly green with new life and possibility.
I thought about the tree as metaphor for life as a human.
Roots – how important it is to be firmly planted. To be a sure as you can be that where you are is where you are meant to be. To extend your grounding as far as you need to in order to have a steady, firm foundation. To know that these roots will grow and change over the course of time, and you can always add more. And to accommodate obstructions when you come upon them, so that you can work around them as needed.
Trunk – always growing and forming layer upon layer throughout the years. Also shedding layers as needed to accommodate new growth. A solidness upon which branches are able to extend to the sun, knowing that they have a steady base to hold them.
Branches – extending from the established trunk, confident in their direction as they reach high into the sky for sustenance. While they all come from the same source, each has their own quirky direction and purpose. All supporting the twigs as they extend even further into the sky.
Twigs – flexible and yet firm. Able to sway in the breeze without being snapped in two. Confidently serving their purposes all-the-while moving and flexing as needed to accommodate changes in their surroundings such as wind or storms. Being released as needed when no longer living to their full potential or cannot adjust when the high winds come along.
Leaves – ever evolving through the changing seasons. Budding in spring, producing new life and possibility. Enjoying the sun, wind, and rain during the treasured summer. Changing colors and falling away through fall. And giving the ground nutrients during the winter so that next spring the rebirth can begin again. Constantly in flux, but this is their life, this is what they are meant to do, and they do not fight it.
This tree has come to mind many times since the afternoon when I gave myself time to really observe its relationship to the earth, sun, and wind. Regardless of what comes, this tree stays. Leaves fall, twigs snap off in a storm, but the tree is unhindered in its tenacity.
May we all be like this old tree. Grounded, solid, open, flexible yet firm, and open to change.
Tamara Statz, MA, LAMFT
MAMFT Pre-Clinical Representative
Tamara has the honor of serving seniors and families every day. Through her private practice, she goes in-home to provide much needed therapy services. At the University of Minnesota, she is conducting research on a counseling intervention for families who are caregiving for a person with dementia. She is passionate about aging, caregiving, and end-of-life issues. She has proudly served on the MAMFT Board as the Pre-Clinical Representative for the past two and a half years.