“I feel sorry for trees,” I mused to my husband Eric some months ago. We were sitting outside together on our back deck under the big old pine tree I love. A cool, late autumn wind was whipping through the nearly barren branches of the apple trees across our yard.
“While the rest of the world moves around where it wants to go, experiencing new sensory delights and interacting at will, trees spend their entire lives standing in one spot,” I continued. “How boring it must be to never have a change in viewpoint, to always experience the same location over and over.”
Eric looked over at me with compassion. He knew the heart of my comment wasn’t really about trees. It was about me. About what it is like to go from being an able-bodied person who could easily move wherever I wanted to go to one for whom mobility is a challenge.
About requiring physical assistance to leave my own home (ie to carry my wheelchair down our front steps and lift it into our van), meaning that I now spend the majority of my days inside our home.
I do get out a little: now that it is spring, I can get myself to a chair on my front lawn to visit with neighbourhood passerbyers, And, on evenings and weekends when Eric isn’t working, he and I do take the kids on adventures to restaurants or parks. My parents are also great about driving me to needed medical appointments during the week.
But it is a far cry from my old life of independence and mobility. Truly, losing the ability to just dash out my front door whenever I want, and spending a lot of time in the same continuous physical environment (my home) has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced, harder than losing the ability to walk or easily speak (I can still speak at little at times).
And so, I felt like I could relate to a tree that spends its life rooted in one spot while the rest of the world moves on by.
Eric’s next words startled me. “Of course trees move,” he said quietly. “However, instead of moving across the ground like animals do, trees grow in an upward direction.”
The profound simplicity of Eric’s word’s stunned my spirit. He was right. From the earliest moments when a seed drops into the ground, trees (and all plants) are in a constant, vibrant state of motion. A true, upward dance of life.
In fact, it is one of the greatest miracles I’ve ever witnessed, to push a tiny seed into naked dirt and then over time to watch it grow into a beautiful, strong plant. A tree that reaches towards the Heavens.
From the moment that plant begins its life until it dies, it grows. Upwards. Towards the sun. Towards the sky. Towards Life Itself.
And sometimes, when the tree is big and strong, it nourishes the lives of others. Not just through its fruit, but when a mama bird chooses to build her nest within it’s safe boughs.
In a flash, I realized that the same can be true in my life as well. Even though I cannot easily move around and no longer have the physical abilities I once had, I can choose to grow in an upwards direction. I can continue to grow in spirit and heart and love and compassion.
And it doesn’t just apply to my life: the same is true for every person on earth. For you as well as for me. No matter where one is in his or her life or what obstacles one is facing, upward growth is always a choice.
Not everyone’s situation is the same as mine: most people can easily leave
their homes and go to the places they want to go. However, each of us will face times in our lives where we are not where we would be if we had the choice. The challenge is to find the way to grow upwards, like a tree, even during those situations when moving forward is not an option.
It could be that your obstacle is a frustrating, unfulfilling job that doesn’t seem to be moving you forward in the direction of your dreams.
Or maybe you are at home with a cranky toddler, cleaning up toys and messes and spills day after day that never seem to end. Maybe you are in a relationship that is struggling. Or maybe you are not in a relationship at all but wish you were.
Maybe your once noisy home is now too quiet because the kids have grown and moved off to start their own lives and the partner you envisioned loving forever and growing old with is no longer here.
Or maybe you sometimes wonder if you are doing enough…if you are enough. That is something I worry about frequently, particularly since I’m Iiving a life so vastly different than the one I envisioned.
However, Eric’s words encouraged me to grow my life from the ground up. Starting from where I’m at and stretching my spirit towards the sky.
Even though I can’t drive on out to coffee shops on my own, I’ve made a point the past few months of opening up my home to invite friends, acquaintances, and neighbours over for tea. I’ve opened my door and heart to people both younger than me and older than me, people from various backgrounds and life circumstances vastly different than my own. I’ve gotten to know and love some really neat people who I may otherwise not have had the opportunity to build relationships with.
I stumbled across a letter writing website that asks for letters of love and encouragement to be sent to folks all across the world experiencing hardships. Somehow, when I sit down to pen a letter to someone facing hard times, my own problems are put into perspective.
When I have a bad day, sometimes I still look out the window at the world passing by and cry. But other days, more and more, I’m able to remind myself that hardships are a part of life. We can either let them hold us back and break us, or we can let them be springboards to upward growth. Every obstacle can be a seed we plant in the ground that will grow into a strong tree that grows upwards towards the sky.
The choice is always ours to grow wherever we are. To find ways to live and love and laugh and smile through the hardships, to give deeply to those around us. To dance through life like a tree, growing ever upward towards the beautiful sky.