It’s difficult to look at a tree and not see it’s beauty. It might be it’s height, the beautiful leaves it produces, the refuge it provides for birds and other critters, the food it gives, or simply the calm it brings to our lives because of its permanence. Whatever the reason, it is easy to look at a tree and see it’s true magnificence and beauty. We are drawn to them.
But let’s take a closer look at a tree you love. What do you see? If you are like me, you see a story. Unlike a young developing tree, a mature tree shows signs of the life it has led. A tree is a physical reminder of my own beauty as a middle aged woman who has given birth to two children, had some ups and downs in life, and lived the last 16+ years with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
When I was pregnant with child number one, I had this vision of popping him out, getting back into shape, and never having the stretch marks that I had witnessed on others in my family. Yet, they did appear, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. The markings are nature’s way of tattooing my history on my body. They are the story of a time that the two loveliest human beings ever lived within me. Like this tree in our backyard, I am not physically perfect. Yet, I am a constant in the life of my family. Just the sight of me can bring them calm. This tree does the same for me.
When I was first diagnosed with RA, my worst fear was wonky joints. I hyperventilated in the shower as visions of what I considered “ugly joints” popped in my head. I consider those to be my innocent days because I didn’t yet understand the true destruction RA can play on not just my joints but my body as a whole. Over the years, some changes have occurred. I have large nodules on my elbows that embarrass me when I think about them and hammer toes that don’t make my feet the most attractive in sandals. The trees in my backyard remind me that while folks may notice those details about me on occasion, those who matter see the full package of my magnificence.
Even with the loveliest of lives, we all have twists and turns to our stories. Relationships and life events have put us on paths that we never expected or sometimes even wanted. Yet, no matter how tangled the limbs of this tree are, it never stops blooming in the spring or prevents birds from taking time each and every day to perch on its limbs. I am the same. Over the years, ideas and philosophies from the many amazing people I have met or read about have changed my philosophies and allowed me to grow and expand into the person I am today. Like this tree, my body is a place for my heart and mind to have the space it needs to bloom.
Like a tree, we don’t all physically take on a look we love. Time has a way of creating something new. For me, I once had a physical body that I was quite proud of. It showed off the work I put into it. Today, not so much. It has changed in ways that are common for women in their 50’s, but is not always what I enjoy looking at in the mirror. Not only do I hold more weight than I would would like, but the shape doesn’t always match with the amount of activity I do and it frustrates me. But, this body of mine is one that has done its best to eat well, exercise, and be strong for those who need me. It has taken me through some pretty painful days and nights. It never gives up on me. It is uniquely mine.
Trees are an amazing reminder to us of our roots. Our roots give us a history of not only where we came from but how far we have traveled. I left religion behind in my early 20’s, but I continue to display a few religious items in my house because they are reminders of many of the values that are still close to my heart today. While some family and friends have unfortunately moved out of my life, I keep photos of them because no matter what, they are a part of my soul. They are wrapped so tightly around it that I can never let them go. And I wouldn’t want to. I am who I am because of all the people and experiences that have come into my life.
Some may look at this tree’s roots and see nothing but a big pile of mess, but not me. I remember the day I spotted these roots. I was enthralled by the secret they revealed to me. Life doesn’t show up in a nice orderly manner. It travels every which way trying to grasp hold of the solid ground that it belongs to. As the roots grow longer and deeper, we are finding our way to our own magnificence!