Lessons From the Trees


by Debbie Wollard

Have you been to a redwood forest? Or laid flat on your back watching the stars? Have you seen a person that you’ve never met, but you are certain that you “know” them?

There are so many ways that people feel connected, and conversely, so many ways that we forget we are connected and tell ourselves that we are all alone.

When I was in a redwood forest in California, after spending a few precious hours in awe admiring these towering ancestors, I came upon an information placard that changed my life forever. The placard said (paraphrasing here) that redwood trees do not have deep tap roots—tap roots which drill down deep into the earth in an effort to support a tree’s towering height.

Instead, they have a vast network of shallow roots that intermingle with the roots of the other trees, which is what ultimately keeps them upright but also allows them to share resources (and now, we know information as well – read “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben).

I stood there stunned into awareness.

I felt the connections.

I longed for that type of connection.

I ultimately had to come to acknowledge that I had these connections too.

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When I lie on my back, in a field or on a sand dune, watching the stars blink into sight and longing for a brief glimpse of a shooting star, I begin to feel something that I only get glimpses of – I feel like I am EVERYTHING! And at the same time I feel like I am a tiny spec (I feel this second half, not in a martyr sort of way – just a way of keeping everything in perspective). It all happens in a flash, not unlike the brief glimpse I get of a shooting star. I know it is something special and I can’t hang on to it.

Each time I struggle to hold these two seemingly opposing feelings in my mind and heart, I realize that what they are about is connection. Connection to all that is – all the way out to the cosmos. I am EVERYTHING because I am connected to EVERYTHING. Someone notable once said “There is no other” and in these moments, I believe this to my very core.

And then….I feel tiny. In the grand scheme of things, I am tiny. Bring to mind the Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who – that kind of tiny – like a whole world could be on the head of a pin, like there is more out there, than I could ever comprehend. But, I keep trying to comprehend– because my heart leads the way into these revelations.

I have had a few wonderful experiences where I meet someone for the first time, and there is a spark of recognition, that is almost frightening, and always thrilling. My heart races with that sense of “I know you” – even before I’ve learned their name. This too feels like it’s about connection – about how we can share heart information and “resources” like the trees, through our network of “roots” (ie – energetic connections). In each of these circumstances, I am so lucky, and really not surprised, that these people have become life-long friends, and in one case a partner.

When I am feeling disconnected, which happens when I get busy, if I can pause, and breathe, and look around me, I can usually regain some semblance of connection. It may take more than one pause to feel as connected as I’ve indicated in each of these examples – but even a little more connected is sometimes better than feeling completely isolated and alone.

I believe that remembering that we are connected is where kindness comes from; is where risking comes from; is where heroic acts come from; is where love comes from. For love is what connects us. Not the sappy, movie kind of love. But the deep, broad, undeniable, over-flowing, there’s-enough-for-everyone kind of love.

 When we remember that our hearts are connected, that our metaphorical roots share resources and information that are life giving and life sustaining, it has impact.

 A teacher in my life, Annie O’Shaughnessy, taught me to place my hand on my heart when I am feeling disconnected from the one I am talking with, and to imagine that I am placing my hand on their heart. I had no idea how much of a shift this would make in my stance, especially when I am struggling to make a connection with someone.

I don’t always do this physically – but sometimes just imagine I am doing this in my minds-eye. That is enough for me to make a palpable shift to a more love-based stance – and I hear differently and I certainly speak differently.

This hand-on-my-heart practice is a reminder that we are connected – that person and I – and when I remember that connection there are endless possibilities for what could come from a simple conversation. Quite possibly, and most likely, a miracle will arrive in the most surprising way!  

I hope that each of you will seek out the ways that you feel connections, and choose a practice that will help deepen your sense of connection. For connection is the path to Love… or is it Love is the path to connection?

I’m not sure it matters – they lead to each other and in this way make our world a kinder place. 

Debbie Wollard, LMT is a licensed massage therapist and Reiki practitioner as well as a guide for women’s wilderness trips. She also works as a conference administrator for wellness conferences around the country and as an executive assistant at an Ann Arbor property management company. She feels most connected and centered when she is out in nature and feels her bodywork practice and her work with women in the wilderness are two of the most satisfying parts of her life. You may contact Debbie by email at dmwollard@icloud.com. or visit womensspiritualityproject.wordpress.com.

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Posted on September 13, 2018 and filed under Guest Blogger, Nature, Spirituality.