The Dreams of Trees - A Meditation (Part 1)
The Dreams of Trees - A Meditation (Part 1)
I walked out of my studio in Brooklyn this morning amongst the many cars, the tall buildings, and the countless lives of people moving around me. I was on a search for the last leaves of the year, still hanging onto their limbs, or on the ground below them. The industrial Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn may sound like the wrong place to go on a nature walk to look for leaves, but that was kind of the point. To seek out those metaphor-rich experiences of nature while I am thoroughly bound to the city. I made a quick guideline for myself that I would look only look and collect on one side of my block. I could walk no further than that, hoping that it would make me really look closely at what was around me. The sky and air were brisk and clear. The textures and details on the seedpods and veins in the leaves were delicate and captivating. It rained yesterday so the colors on everything were bright and saturated. I paused to breathe often and look around, making sure to enjoy myself. I was making a ritual to connect with my new place and life, as well as the fading year and one about to appear.
The world was fast and slow as I gathered my small collection. I’m still learning, so I do not know most of the names of the plants I collected from (if you know the names of any send me a message!), and this is an attempt to get to know them, and to form relationships with them. This walk and the corresponding collection are an introduction of sorts. I’m new to the city still, and I’m building context little by little through experiences like this. Walking and collecting as a way of seeing is one of the best ways I’ve been shown to get to know my surroundings intimately, or to more deeply know a place that I’ve lived for years.
As I collected, I thought back on 2018 - moving from Colorado to New York, driving across the country, swimming in all five Great Lakes, the faces of my family up close to mine, my friends in far off places, the projects I worked on, the places I travelled to, who I was with, what we talked about, what we saw, what we ate, the many walks I took along the river by my old house, the work of my hands, the things that hurt me, the things that hurt my wife Emi, the things that hurt other people I knew or didn’t know, family separation, famine, climate disasters, the craziness that is the United States right now, and the fragile state of the world. Each thought was mulled over as I was picked up things that caught my attention, turning them over in my hands, and then placing them in my bag. One thing at a time, a few steps at a time.
I brought back leaves and twigs and seeds and stems and placed them on a black background I found on the street a couple months ago. I took the photos in natural light from my south facing window, with the leaves and background on the floor. I handled the leaves and other things carefully and gratefully. I said thank you to them.
At the end of the year I always like to take some time to journal about what I learned, what I did well, what I could improve upon next year, what qualities I would like to focus on in the next year. It can feel a little clichéd, but I also think that there’s deep value in it, so I brush the cynicism aside and dive in. I often feel that writing out questions is a fruitful way for me to dig into all of these thoughts and deliberately think about them. I then go on a walk and slowly sip on the questions and see what comes into my mind.
So for this week’s year end Meditation I would like to invite you to go on a journey with me….
Find a comfortable position to sit with your body at ease, your feet touching the ground. Imagine you’re somewhere outside. Somewhere peaceful. Somewhere that’s special to you. Are there trees? What does it look like there? What does the air feel like? What does it sound like? Are there birds? Imagine yourself walking there, going slowly to notice everything around you. Feel things with your hands. Feel the ground under your feet. Stretch your body and feel it in that place.
Now, take one incredibly deep breath in, and hold it. Imagine you’re breathing in every single little thing you experienced from this past year. Hold them all close for a second in your lungs, no matter how joyful or painful. Feel them there; collected in your body, in your flesh. Look down and see your feet connected to the ground. This is the soil from which you’ll grow next year. Then very, v e r y slowly let your breath out, with your eyes closed, releasing everything, turning it into spirit, to go back into the world.
Next I would like to invite you to dwell on a collection of images, each image is paired with an question : One for each month of the year. These are the images of the collection from my walk outside my studio; beautiful, simple things that were close at hand. Dwell on the question and then sip on the image and see what rises up within you.
The Dreams of Trees
What does a tree love? What does it reach for?
Does it count each leaf as they unfurl in the spring, naming them and knowing each
Does time move slowly in the endlessly hot summer days for a tree, the afternoon an eternity
Do they grow weary as the wind picks up in the fall, making waves on the water
Do they tighten their grip as their colors turn to fire and ember
Do they grieve and console with one another, as they bare and are forced to face the cold winter naked and vulnerable
What does a tree remember? What does it desire?
What does a tree know of the dark loamy earth?
Perhaps those leaves found and lost each year are a joy to the tree, like finding a lost child
Perhaps those leaves that unfurl,
are like souls reincarnated from the past lives of ancestor trees,
full of the stories of what happens in the ground
Perhaps those leaves bring back new wisdom from their time with death, like Lazarus leaves
Perhaps those leaves are the dreams of trees
and we as humans are witnesses to their forested imaginations,
each leaf each color each flourish each season - demonstrated in plain sight
all of it mystical all of it truthful
and all of it expressive of a radiant being - fully alive
Who are these trees to be so bold?
May your final days of 2018 be restful, even if on the outside your life is crazy
May you find peace and resolve to grow more fully into your expressive self
May you find time to love the things you love, and share them with others
May you find new and creative ways to act with reciprocity with the Earth
May you make time to walk to reflect on who’ve you’ve been and who you want to be
Be well friend.