When I Talk to Trees
When I am among trees, they don’t ask anything from me except to be me - all I have to do is be present with my own feet on the ground. I don’t have to say anything or hold myself in any certain way. I shed my obligations to others and turn to my own needs. My nagging To Do list dissipates when I’m on a dirt path, as I simply focus on navigating around one root, one rock at a time. At the end of a walk, as the soft ground turns to pavement and I click my car keys to unlock, I notice my authentic feelings are on the surface of my skin. My To Do list that felt like spaghetti presents itself in a clear way - and, in the order of my own true priorities (no one else’s). I am out of my head and into my body. Even if I realize I have to do a hard thing, I feel comforted and confident in being rooted in my own knowing and feelings. Somehow the tree branches above me show me the way to my own inner knowing.
A couple of years ago I was working a desk job that didn’t feel right in my body. On paper it made sense. It made so much sense. I loved telling people what I did. It came with a certain pride and clarity and was something others could relate to or at least nod their head. I could articulate aspects of the job that irked me, and it felt soft and irresponsible to think about leaving. I reasoned, as I spoke to other desk-jobbers, it’s just part of having a job. There is a certain pride that comes with talking shit about work. Like, you must be a hard worker and diligent and responsible if you hate your job. It’s something to bond over.
I would leave my desk at least 5x a day to go on walks around the neighborhood. For air. For clarity. For trees. Near the end of my time at this job, I felt like I was one, big mass of spaghetti as I wrestled with whether I should stay or leave. My mom told me to follow my heart. My dad told me I’d have to figure out health insurance if I left. On one of my walks, I paused at a stop sign, looked up at some trees, and immediately started crying. “You don’t have to do anything but be you,” the trees told me. My eyes stung with a grateful clarity and reassurance - this simple statement validated that little voice inside my body that didn’t seem to make sense to constructed societal norms around me. I left my job two weeks later and began a path towards freelance work.
I can feel muddled among crowds, “in the bustle of the human world and its echo-chamber of judgements and opinions” (Brain Pickings - Maria Popova). But, among trees, even in a crowded neighborhood in Seattle, things become less complicated, more matter of fact. Asking my body for guidance when I am among trees or seals or sunsets has become a ritual when I am wrestling with big and small decisions. The answers don’t always present themselves in a blaring and obvious way as they did on that simple, neighborhood walk away from my desk in 2018, but, my inner knowing slowly shows itself if I decide to listen.
I moved to Seattle four years ago so I could watch sunsets. It sounds silly, but it was on my list of reasons why I wanted Seattle (along with being close to mountains and the sea and to be among people who leave the grocery store holding their bare, bopping kale). In New Jersey, I couldn’t see the sunset in my neighborhood. It made me so annoyed in the evening - I felt restless and agitated as the sky turned to navy blue. I wanted an expansive sky and to be able to watch that glowing ball take its last big exhale as it settles into distant ground.
There are many lessons we receive from nature. ("Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" - Lao Tzu, being one of my favorites). I can write them all out - these lessons- but it is more so the feelings I receive when I am in nature that guide me. One thing I am reminded of after a hike or simply getting fresh air is to be with myself - beyond squeezing myself into these acceptable definitions that society has arbitrarily constructed. Since stepping away from my desk job, many people are confused about how I make money and how I spend my days. Furthermore, I am navigating a chronic and invisible illness that is hard for people to understand, and equally hard for me to articulate and grapple with. But - rather than having bite-sized job descriptions and health-status-updates, (which...would be nice, don’t get me wrong), I’d rather feel comfortable in my own knowing, day to day, than try to fit myself into a constructed norm.
“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains… the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.” - Walt Whitman