It is in my nature to seek metaphysical roots and metaphorical tendrils in much of what transpires/crosses my path in life. Through that process I unearth grounded, practical symbols and solutions to aid in resolution/transmutation/evolution. Life is change – sometimes subtle and easily integrated; sometimes profound and world-rocking. I am living change of the latter sort: I was recently shaken by a health setback, one which has necessitated quick, unequivocal, and fundamental shifts in personal priorities, beliefs, values. Adversity has a way of shaking one’s foundations and, at minimum, calls into question one’s habitual responses to life’s little challenges, especially those in the creative realm – which is just about everything for me.
Coincident with my diagnosis, a very old, large oak tree fell in my yard. This long-lived tree had been a fixture in my life for over 20 years. It had a seemingly solid presence, and I was attached to it. Although it continued to grow (and was over 100’ tall), the tree lacked vital root structure to support its crown; eventually it fell over under its own weight (with a bit of aid from weeks of ground-saturating rainfall). It was inevitable but I didn’t see it coming. Just like this little health set-back – didn’t see that coming either. But I am not one for dwelling or wringing my hands over statistical probabilities/possibilities. Don’t we all just cope with whatever arises when it arises anyway?
But back to trees: for me, they have always been powerful symbols of strength, endurance, aspiration, inspiration, and mastery in the moment. They come as they are, and if they are lucky, grow up in and around others like them. In being held up by each other at their roots, they are a bit more resilient to some external pressures and shocks. (Not unlike us humans, as Rumi observed: “Every forest branch moves differently in the breeze, but as they sway they connect at the roots.”*) The glorious oak in my front yard lived a long, lush life but it didn’t have the good fortune of community. However, in falling it did create light for the understory. And as my friend Lori pointed out, it has created symbolic illumination for my own life situation. Areas of my life which have heretofore been covered in shadow can be potentially cleansed by that light. This is the kind of light I will need as I journey through recovery. A bitter-sweet recognition.
I did briefly go through a period of fear that I would not be able (or have the desire) to create again – everything was so turned on its head. However, a good deal of light has been cast upon all aspects of my making/creating as well, leading me to bring a more balanced practice on-line – something more receptive, in which my expansive, project-orientation, end-product fixation yields some ground to a quiet, plodding, more directly process-oriented, work. There is always tension between these two dynamics, the resolution of which makes way for completion. Moving effortlessly between being (receptive, mindful, process-oriented making), and doing (action-oriented, planning, product-focused making) can yield the most interesting results (whether they are marketable or not). The joy is in the flow and embrace of both, as they come.
*from Birdsong, Rumi (fifty-three short poems translated by Coleman Barks); Maypop Press, Athens, Georgia. 1993:
Spring overall. But inside us
there is another unity.
Behind each eye yere,
one glowing weather.
Every forest branch moves differently
in the breeze, but as they sway
they connect at the roots.