Let’s Stop Comparing Ourselves to Trees.

It’s fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

You know what that means, right?

Yup, pumpkin spiced everything.

And also blog post after blog post about letting go. Relaxing into the dark. Transformation. Transition. Change. About how we should be like trees and gracefully let the dead things fall away.

I’ve been guilty of it myself. (See header image.)

And yet. We’re not trees.

Please stop comparing yourself to a tree.

Humans and trees diverged very early in life’s evolutionary journey. Humans went on to evolve a large brain, with a cerebral cortex that knows it’s housed in a body that will die, and so the mind fears. A lot.

Maybe trees have fears, too, when fall comes and they feel their dead leaves drop away. Maybe they resist, too, just like we do.

I’ve been exploring ways to navigate transitions more kindly. My kids are self-sufficient adults, so I’m transitioning from active parenting to empty nester. I’m actively exploring nature-based spirituality, so I’m transitioning from Episcopalian to who knows what. I’m an entrepreneur, so I’m transitioning from fitting into a defined job to being in charge of my own work. My body continues to age, so I’m transitioning from young-ish woman to juicy crone.

Dying and rising and doing it all over again comes pre-installed in Earthlings. All Earthlings. Trees. Rocks. Water. Ravens. Humans. Change is not optional.

I’m finding that knowing who I am, having a sense of my core identity, the essence of “me,” is helpful. Knowing and staying in touch with my heart is one key to sane cycling and changing.

Just as a tree’s identity remains when it stands bare to the winter winds, I will still be “me” when outer identitifiers (mom, teacher, Christian, young …) fall away.

My heart identity lives in my body.  It makes sense to me, then, that deeply knowing myself and living from my core starts with loving and paying attention to my body.

Who you are lives in your body. Deeply knowing yourself and living from your core starts with loving and paying attention to your body, in whatever form that takes for you. I suggest regular body scans, baths, movement, sweaty work, long walks – whatever feels delicious. “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” (Mary Oliver)

Be warned, though. Your body is wild. Paying attention to your body means feeling your feelings. It means sitting with your pain and your joy. Giving yourself the gift of self-compassion.

We are not trees. For humans, with these brains that scream fears night and day, it helps so much to know and trust our hearts. To know that our bodies tell the truth, while our minds often don’t.

When we know who we are, the stuff we cling to that isn’t ours anymore, perhaps never was ours, can fall away like last year’s leaves.

(Would you like to explore navigating the changes and seasons of your life with kindness? I offer a free discovery call. Click here for details.)

 

Why Keep Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument? Here’s Why.

Why we need the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: Pilot Rock from Boccard Point (Photo by Barb Morris)

Here’s my response to a Bend Bulletin editorial signing on to Interior Secretary Zinke’s leaked memo recommending that Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument be shrunk. You can read the Bulletin’s editorial here.

Thank you for your recent editorial “Cascade-Siskiyou should be shrunk” (September 20, 2017), which concludes with these sentences: “Unlike his predecessors, Zinke clearly sees the value of keeping public land open to the public and assuring that earlier promises such as those given when the O&C Lands were set aside in 1937 be honored. It’s difficult to argue with either.”

I deeply appreciate our American right to free speech and this opportunity to respectfully argue with both statements.

 

  1. Public lands, including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (CSNM), are, and will remain, open to the public. The CSNM proclamation and expansion simply changes the designation of these public lands. In fact, these lands are more open to more people than when they were managed primarily for timber production. There are roads throughout the Monument. Existing hiking trails have been improved and new trails constructed. Hunting has improved due to BLM management for mule deer winter range. Tribal cultural sites are better protected and more accessible. Private property owners’ rights of way are explicitly preserved. The expansion proclamation includes the directive to plan for mountain bike and snowmobile access. I could go on.

 

  1. Of course we can, and should, revisit land use decisions made eighty years ago. In 1937 we knew virtually nothing about biodiversity, ecosystems, population growth, human impacts on the environment, and climate change.

In 1937, “biodiversity” wasn’t even a word. Biodiversity wouldn’t be talked about until the 1980s. Ecology and Conservation Biology as disciplines within science were decades away. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, about the interrelationships of living and non-living beings and managing for the health of the land as a whole, ideas now widely accepted, wouldn’t be published until 1949.

In 1937, Oregon’s population was 1,025,000 and California’s was 6,300,000. In 2016, Oregon’s population was estimated at 4,028,977 and California’s at 39,500,000. That’s phenomenal growth. Along with that growth comes dramatically increased pressure on the land.

In 1937, automobile ownership per capita was still low. People who did have cars didn’t drive into the backcountry lightly. Cell phones, plastic water bottles, GPS, and the internet were decades in the future.

In 1937, we didn’t have any inkling that our climate would change, and that the CSNM’s biodiversity would be a crucial sanctuary for species threatened by extinction.

There are approximately 2.5 million acres of O&C Lands in Oregon. The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument contains about 40,000 acres of O&C land, and much of that 40,000 isn’t actually timber-producing for various reasons. At most, that’s 1.6% of O&C taken out of timber production, hardly significant in the grand scheme of things. This debate isn’t about timber production. It’s about values.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument sits at the confluence of three mountain ranges. One of these ranges, the Siskiyou Mountains, is an unusual east-west range which forms a high-elevation land bridge between the Klamath and Cascade Mountains. This bridge has allowed plant and animal species to travel back and forth for hundreds of thousands of years. As a result, plant species diversity in the CSNM is incredibly high. High plant diversity leads in turn to high diversity of bird and insect species. Diversity is necessary for healthy life on Earth to persist and evolve. We imperil our survival as a species when we destroy vital habitat for ourselves and our non-human relatives and neighbors.

We knew none of this in 1937.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument has been studied up one side and down the other since the 1980s, when the concept of biodiversity first emerged.  There are millions of acres of public land better suited for timber production, grazing, and OHV riding. Let’s maintain the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument’s bountiful diversity of plants and animals as best we can, given the realities of 2017.

I Want Transformation and I Want It NOW.

The waiting part of transformation is HARD, at least for me. I want to just do the change, and do it quick. Unfortunately, that’s just not how transformation works. Unlike our get ‘er done culture, what happens in that chrysalis can’t be rushed. (See this previous post for more about change, transformation, and the difference between them. Today’s post goes deeper into #5, about the predictable pattern of change.)

My hypothesis is that the obligatory waiting phase is why I resist necessary transformations. I hate that in-between thing so much. (And if I haven’t done the grieving I need to do with any change, transformation pretty much stops.) All those messy feelings, when we just want to feel bright and shiny and good at life, right?

I’ve been finding these words helpful when I feel myself resisting the necessary waiting phase of transformation. It’s an excerpt from John O’Donohue’s blessing “For the Interim Time.”

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to squander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in false ground,

That you might become free

From all you have outgrown.

 

What is being transfigured here is your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new,

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

 

I love that the poet speaks of enduring faithfully. I love that he speaks of loosening roots and becoming free, and how he acknowledges that it’s a difficult and slow process to become new. Mostly I love that he describes the interim time as a time when our minds are being transfigured.

Stay present here and now, in your body. Spend time in nature, and pay attention to how this amazing Creation in which we are embedded actually works. A flower blossoms when it’s ready, and not a minute before. Hold your confidence. Allow your roots to loosen. Faithfully endure and allow your mind to be transfigured. You are becoming new, which is a holy enterprise.

Be faithful to your metamorphosis.

if you’d like to explore how I can help you navigate change and transformation, I offer a free 60-minute consultation. Fill out this form and we’ll set up a time.