I have spent much of the last few years trying to learn all that I can about creating and living an authentic life. I have searched the world over for examples of people who personify what authentic living is all about. Although I did find a few folks, (some famous, like the Dalai Lama, and some just regular people like you and me), I finally found the perfect example of what authentic living looks like by hanging out in my very favorite place on earth … in fact, on the earth itself, namely, in nature. In my lifetime I have discovered time and again that nature provides us with all the knowledge and wisdom we need. In this case, the example is not some single, unique thing. In fact, there are millions of them, if not billions, and you can find them just by stepping out of your front door or looking out of your window. I am referring to trees.
I am being totally honest when I say that a tree is a living example of what it means to be authentic. In fact, I spent the two years before I moved last November making friends with a huge old tree that stood at the foot of my driveway. She and I became quite close and just by watching her do her thing throughout the seasons, I came to understand not only what authenticity was, but integrity as well. Here is what I learned:
- A tree never worries about how it compares to the other trees. It is content being who and what it is.
- A tree can lose its leaves in the autumn and not fall into panic mode wondering if it needs a dose of Rogaine to grow them back. They have faith in who and what they are, and know that, come spring, their leaves will come back just as beautiful as before.
- “No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.” (Native American Proverb).
- A tree shows up every day and performs its job, helping to keep the air clean, with no thought of reward, promotion or recognition.
- A tree generously and lovingly gives of itself to provide homes for birds, squirrels, insects and other creatures, shielding them from the elements, offering its seeds, branches and leaves for food and building materials. It never demands payment or even a thank you.
- A tree knows that the time will come when it may begin to crumble and lose some of its limbs, and perhaps even come crashing down one day from the force of a storm or just from old age. It doesn’t panic when it sees the first wrinkle or crack and search the internet for any and all anti-aging products it can find. It accepts that there is a cycle of life and it is part of it.
- Even when its days are over, and the pieces of its trunk and branches are being hauled away, it has left behind a legacy deep beneath the ground. There it has planted roots and seeds that will nourish the next generation. That is its legacy.
If any of you follow my blog, “Flower Bear’s Garden-Growing A Life,” you may remember a post I did a few years back about a particular tree and my oldest granddaughter. Years ago when I was living along the river in the picturesque town of Marathon, New York, there was a huge tree that could be seen on the river bank across from my front windows. My granddaughter, who was 4 or 5 at the time, had named the tree Grandmother Willow after a character in the Disney re-make of the Pocahontas story. She would bring it presents of food and flowers, play underneath the canopy of its branches, and talked to it all the time. A few years ago, Grandmother Willow (which was actually not a willow but a maple tree) came down in a storm during a particularly nasty winter. The following spring, while visiting the town for its annual maple festival, my granddaughter, now in her 20’s, was horrified to see her beloved friend lying in pieces on the ground. I pointed to the hollowed out base of what was left of her trunk. “Look, honey. See those brand new shoots coming up? Those are her children, coming to take her place. She’s not gone. A piece of her will live on forever.”
An authentic life is accepting who you are at every stage of your life, doing what you were intended to do when you were created, sharing your gifts with the world and finding a way to be of service. Trees do it all the time, and so can we.
The assignment this week on the Home Page is a fun exercise in using our creativity and imagination … and maybe a little of our inner child.
Peace and blessings.