Musings of the Day
The Wisdom Tree
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Aging continues to be a challenge for many of us, especially as women.
We watch as our bodies change without our consent and our once taut skin loses its hold on our bones. To a large extent we are out of control of this process. It cannot be stopped. The years, especially those at the turn of a new decade, mark the passing of our lives and the shortening of the years still ahead to fulfill our dreams.
I have found myself grieving the loss of my youth in a way I hadn’t before reaching this new decade. There is something about 70 that feels final to me. A marker that I can no longer fool myself into thinking I’m young or going to reclaim my youth in some way. I was sharing my feelings with a trusted friend, and she asked me what the vibration of 70 felt like. To some, this might sound odd, but it made perfect sense to me. Words, thoughts and emotions have a frequency to them, a rhythm and vibration that can be felt. This one felt ancient and deep like the beating of a tribal drum. And then I had a vision which I began to describe to her. "Love, Loss and Heartbreak"
It was of an old, majestic tree in the forest. This tree had lived for what appeared to be hundreds if not thousands of years. With gnarly bark and twisted limbs, it stood alone in the middle of the forest, its heart beating the beat of that ancient drum, deep and resonant, vibrating through the silence. Her roots ran deep beneath the earth and her heart felt heavy and sad. She carried the weight of the world, of so many years of surviving whatever nature threw her way. This was a weight that could not be shaken off.
I felt a kinship with this tree. She was the embodiment of all that I was feeling about myself. Through this vision of her I saw my own grief, but I also saw all that I had been through to be as majestic as I was standing there. All of the wisdom I had gained and the abilities I had honed, the gems I had discovered on my travels within and the beauty of my soul.
My friend reminded me that trees speak to one another. They give each other nourishment through their roots, and when one of them is struggling they intertwine their roots as a way of building a network between them, a community of sorts.
I thought again of myself. I had felt so alone most of my life and am now first experiencing the first threads of connection to something larger than myself. Through extending my roots, sharing who I am, from my heart, others have been responding and my aloneness is disappearing. I’m sensing that there is a network of other “roots” out there to share nourishment with.
What I saw as I was speaking with my friend was the image of this majestic tree in the dense forest, reaching deeper into the earth with her roots, spreading them wider and further until she had received enough nourishment for her branches to grow and expand up beyond the forest ceiling. Up higher than she had ever been where there was a world outside her secluded forest home, she turned her newly extended branches to the sun and leaves sprouted from each one. It had taken all of those hundreds of turns of the wheel for her to be strong enough and solid enough in her roots, to be able to break through that forest out into the light. This was not the job of a sapling. It required an ancient, solid, jewel filled tree.
“Old” didn’t look undesirable on her. It was a mark of honor, of respect and even adoration for all that she was, all that she carried and all that it had taken of her life to be the tree she was now. I didn’t look at her and think she would have been better off as a young sapling with smooth bark. I looked at her in wonder at every knot on her trunk, every scar accumulated by weathering storms, and every twist of her branches revealing all of the changes she had been through along her path. I was in awe at her majesty.
The tree is one symbol of who I am at 70. Undoubtedly old, with scars and twisted branches, I stand with greater strength in my roots than ever. They have reached deeper and spread wider than ever before. I am finding a community that recognizes who I am and is feeding me what I need to reach beyond the forest ceiling. Within me lies thousands of years of the jewels I have found on my journeys, giving me strength. There is a different beauty about me now, not one of youth, but of wisdom and truth that I never had when my skin was taught and firm. Would I trade who I am now for a younger version of myself? Never. Am I grieving loss?
There is something in being young, with all possibility ahead of me that I will never have again. But like that tree, I will not waste the time I have left on worrying about when it will all be over, or if I’ll have enough years to enjoy the fruits of all of my work. My mind tells me that turning 70 means something that is worth grieving, but my soul is telling me that this is the time to live on my terms. To embrace being such a majestic tree that I CAN reach beyond the forest ceiling and spread my branches for miles. To celebrate that I have the roots that I do, so strong and deep that nothing can sway me. And to realize that I am big enough to hold all of it, the grief, the years, the aloneness, the joy and celebration, along with a deeper knowing than I have ever had.
That tree does not mourn the loss of being a sapling. She stands wearing the crown that she has earned with eons of living and surviving every storm. That tree holds the wisdom of the universe in her knotty trunk, the riches of the earth, and a world of new possibility in each seed she sprinkles on that forest floor.