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be [more like] a tree

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In response to yesterday’s poem, Terrill wrote: “I will practice being more tree-like and less human-like.” Her words reminded me of the differentiations we make between me and you, us and them, human and nature. This dualistic view, it seems to me, is at the root of international wars and neighbourly disputes. Evidence is everywhere: how we treat each other while driving in traffic, how we dispose of our garbage, and how we judge each other’s intentions.

rheinwanderung-025Ever so often I get a glimpse, however fleeting, that there is no we and them, that everything is one: humans, frogs, trees, rocks, cinnamon buns, feces. I remember hiking alone in Bavaria (as a pilgrim en route to Compostela) when, pausing on a rocky outcrop overlooking a picture-postcard village, I began to weep. Continuing to walk and turning inwards, I asked, “what is it?” Repeating the question, my awareness shifted from thinking to sensing, from head to body. The next moment found me kneeling and weeping and laughing and, with the back-pack sliding over my head, kissing the ground repeatedly. 

Everything appeared as if viewed through the heart’s eyes: no boundaries. The rock-strewn path, the smell of moss, oak, beech, and birch branches overhead, the sun filtered through whispering leaves, the upright tree trunks, the song of birds–all interconnected. I felt elated … weightless, rinsed, happy.

Mary Oliver writes about a similar “seizure of happiness” while emerging from the woods on a morning walk:

It was not the drowning sort of happiness, rather the floating sort. I made no struggle towards it; it was given. Time seemed to vanish. Urgency vanished. Any important difference between myself and all other things vanished. I knew that I belonged to the world and felt comfortable in my own containment in the totality. I did not feel that I understood any mystery, not at all; rather that I could be happy….

…. there was no vision, or anything extraordinary at all, but only a sudden awareness of the citizenry of all things withing one world: dust, thrushes and finches, men and women.

source: Oliver, M. (2004). Long life: essays and other writings. Da Capo Press, pp. 33-34. image: Peter casts a momentary shadow.


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