The other morning while running through the forest I stopped at my favorite Madrone tree that hangs off the edge of a cliff in a nearly horizontal reach over the water below. This tree never ceases to amaze me. I have many times meditated on this tree, with this tree, journeyed through this tree. It has served as a portal for my soul to travel to high places.
When I visit this Madrone tree I am astounded by its beautiful red peeling bark, its smooth feminine form arching out of the cliff side like it is longing for far away places. But even more astounding is the invisible root system far below the ground that makes it’s defiant relationship to gravity possible.
Despite the stunning beauty of this tree, it is its roots that compel me.
How deep must they go? How much of the cliffside is held together by their embrace?
I want to be strong and rooted like this tree. So I have learned to listen to the particular way it grows. And I have learned to listen to the particular ways that I grow.
I believe it t is only through this kind of attention that we can become sturdy enough to be so far reaching. Owning the ground we commune with, owning the space we inhabit. To be one who thrives no matter where we are planted, knowing full well that we belong.
And yet it is not so easy to remember this when we leave the forest for the sidewalks or when our roots are flying over asphalt on four wheels. It can be disjointing, disruptive, dissatisfying and all around disastrous to go about our lives without knowing how to remain planted in and nourished by the planet that grows us.
We must learn how to cultivate our inner wildness and take it with us wherever we go. We must remember to feel into the earth that lives inside us, so we can recognize ourselves in the earth around us.
It isn’t easy to grow in precarious places, during trying times or in ways that demand we stretch beyond reasonable means. Yet each tree has a right to the land it grows within, to the height and space it takes and to whatever crazy, beautiful shape it makes. As we all do. Regardless and in spite of our growing conditions.
Through paying attention to and understanding our own needs, through listening, and cultivating our own inner environment we can remember how to thrive beyond our circumstances. We must learn to listen to the ways we grow, to honor our roots and acknowledge how we are in communion with the land that holds us, that we hold together as well.
In order to be stewards of the land, we must be stewards of our own energy, our own body, of our own sovereignty. We must learn how to drive our roots so deep into the land that we have no doubts of our belonging. Only from this kind of depth can we safely find out just how uniquely, courageously, and magnificently we can grow.
Image credit: Art by Jessica Gabriel