MY GIANT MAPLE & THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES: THE POWER OF LETTING GO
In my backyard is a giant maple tree. Its trunk is wide and knotted. Deep crevices and storylines run through its ancient bark. Four large trunk-like branches rise up from its base and reach for the sky. Swirls of smaller branches upon branches weave their way from root to tip, from ground to sky, from heaven to earth. At the tip of these branches high up in the blue sky, green maple leaves open and face their palms to the sun. This giant maple tree is over 100 years old. This giant maple tree will soon be cut down.
When I look at this maple tree, when I look at her, I see such beauty, age, wisdom and story. I imagine the family that lived here first; the ones who planted this tree. I imagine the many winds she felt as her branches swayed in the sky. I imagine the birds, squirrels and outdoor life that have taken solace and refuge in her branches. I imagine all the things this beautiful maple has seen – all the families playing under her branches and enjoying her shade.
This giant maple is slowly dying. She has lost one of her giant branches with old age. Perhaps she is tired. The young branches and leaves are trying their best, but the deep roots and ancient trunk are not able to feed the young branches anymore.
Her life is an offering and I am so grateful. I am sad to cut her down and let her go. I currently sit in her gentle shade as I write this article. Letting go is hard. Some of you may think “it is just a tree” and I say it is so much more.
Human beings in many ways are like trees. We plant roots, we ground ourselves in the deep core of who we are and what we value, believe in and stand for. We then reach for the sky, building relationships, sharing stories and creating our dreams. We branch out into the fullness of who we are as individuals and we reach for the sun. But there comes a time when we have to cut down some of our branches, trim our leaves and simplify our lives. We can’t be everything to everyone. We can only be true to ourselves, true to our core, our trunk, our essence of being.
Jean Giono, author of “The Man Who Planted Trees”, writes the story of a solitary man – a shepherd – Elzeard Bouffier, who spent his life planting trees. He planted over one hundred thousand trees in his lifetime. He did not do this for money or fame but simply for the act of giving and generosity.” The man who planted trees pursued his task with simplicity and the greatest of care. Giono shares “for a human character to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years.” Seeing the impact of one’s work and one’s life takes time. Just like seeing the life of a tree takes time. From seedling, to young sapling, to ancient wise maple tree.
The seeds that the shepherd plants are the symbol of all our actions, good and bad, which have far-reaching consequences we can scarcely imagine. We must think and act in accordance with our hopes for the future, and, if possible, to leave behind us a world more beautiful and promising than the one we received.
The ancient tree in my back yard has been generous. The man who planted trees has been generous. Both have offered their great gifts without expectation of reward. This is the very essence of happiness because the reward is in the act of giving itself.
My invitation: Accept your past. Appreciate your present. Awaken your future. Trim the branches that you need to in order to reach for your dreams and be your greatest authentic self. Trim, prune, clear, cut and plant so you can thrive, and then years from now over the lifetime of your work, your life, and your way of being, those who knew you will recognize your generosity and your light in the world.
I’d love to hear from you: and the many ways to trim your own branches to reach your dreams. Please drop me a line, share your comments, and let me know your thoughts.
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