Spoiler alert - I didn't hug any trees. I tried. Several times.
But the parades of ants up and down the trunks were impossible for me to overlook.
So I patted a lot of trees. I laid under a lot of trees.
I stared at a lot of trees. I introduced myself to a lot of trees.
I poured out my soul to a lot of trees. And the trees spoke back. A lot.
Some trees told me that staying close, growing up and growing old together
can be a gift for both trees.
Protection. Companionship. Shade. Strength. Nesting space. Shared and entangled roots.
This tree invited me inside, to come under its drooping branches,
to find shelter from the hot sun under its heavy boughs and leaves.
Someone had clearly heard this message before me
and brought in a chair to sit a while and be a more avid student.
I've never climbed a tree - ever. But this tree tempted me to try.
I didn't give in to the temptation, but I suspect that if I return to the Jesuit Center,
nay, when I return to the Jesuit Center, I will seriously consider the possibility.
This tree taught me not to compare myself to others.
We each, we all grow at our own rates.
For some, leaves fall early. For others, they fall late.
No two trees are exactly the same.
Nor are any two people the same,
so I must live out my own story, in my own time, in my own way.
This particular tree, the red one, the dead one,
taught me to live fully, to live my own twisted, scarred, oddly shaped life all the way to the end.
It taught me to not be ashamed of my scars, my bumps, and my bruises -
each one of them tells a story all its own,
reminds me of the many adventures I have been on,
the fierce storms I have survived,
and the fact that I have lived long enough for those scars to heal.
It taught me to dance my own dance until my final breath.
Sometimes when wild winds blow and brittle branches fall,
sometimes those branches need to stay close to the tree.
Past love doesn't disappear from my heart.
Past pain doesn't either.
Past laughter, past sorrow, most of it remains close to the heart and the root of who I am.
Sometimes I need those reminders nearby, lest I forget.
Sometimes the broken branch doesn't even make it to the ground.
Can you see it?
The dead branch separated from the trunk but was caught on another branch as it fell.
Sometimes a broken relationship,
such as a separation between a parent and a child,
between two siblings, between two distant spouses,
cannot be healed,
but nor can it be completely discarded.
At least, not yet.
So that branch is held, tenderly, gently, until the right time
when the only just thing, the only kind thing, the only right thing,
is to lay it down and walk away.
This beautiful bush taught me that pruning happens. It hurts.
Sometimes I feel exposed and raw after the chopping away of that which is no longer needed,
but I have to trust that the outcome is worth the pain.
The way that my mind, my soul, and my life are being shaped
will someday prove
that all the snipping, the sawing, the buzzing, and the bleeding
were necessary in order for me to become the woman I am meant to be.
The trees at The Jesuit Center taught me profound lessons.
I'm glad I was quiet enough to hear them speak and learn from them.