Walking out the door for my morning walk with Spud the other day, the sky looked like it was about to open up for the first snow storm of the season. But the 60+ degree temps—a rarity in Maryland in December—told another story. The wind was in high gear, making an almost whistling noise as it whipped through the leafless trees all around us. Droplets of water hit us as we weaved among the downed branches that littered the sidewalks and streets. I wasn’t sure if the droplets were coming from the sky or if they were leftovers remaining on the trees after the rain earlier in the morning. And given the tremendous humidity and wind, my hair was volumizing and frizzing by the minute.
As Spud hopped over one particularly large branch—after first stopping, of course, to lift his leg to pee on it—a thought occurred to me (I do have them from time to time): trees provide an amazing model for showing us how to live our lives. Their roots are firmly planted in the earth, giving them stability and grounding. And through their branches, they reach toward the sun for nourishment and light to help them grow. They cannot live without one or the other. They also need to be able to bend in the wind because if they didn’t, they would break in two. This thought is nothing revolutionary and I know many philosophers have used this analogy before in terms of how it relates to the human condition (and believe me, I’m not fancying myself a philosopher!). But one thing I haven’t heard before that dawned on me as I hopped over this particularly big branch (avoiding Spud’s dribble, of course)—is how important it is for the tree to lose branches that are dead, or just too heavy to support any longer. Hanging on to these branches threatens the very well being of the tree, in fact.
Nature takes care of the release of these branches; sometimes they just naturally and gently fall from the tree over time, or sometimes they’re ripped from the trunk through terrific windstorms like the one Spud and I walked through earlier this week.
I wondered how many “dead branches” I’ve been carrying now and throughout my life… some I’ve been able to let go of on my own. Others have been ripped from me through “windstorms” in my life, sometimes causing immense pain. Either way, I am realizing that losing these branches is part of life and that by doing so, I’ll be better able to bend in the wind (and hopefully not snap in the process)!
I’m feeling like it might be ’bout time for a good pruning. . .