My Grandpa Smith was a giant. Not only was he tall, but his presence was profound and asked gently for pause. When I was younger, there was an excitement around ringing the doorbell. Grandpa was going to come alive. He would throw the heavy wooden door wide open. His tanned leather face would light up and his exclamation of "Sarah!" always made me feel like royalty. His wide massive arms would swing me around until I was dizzy and giggling. When he returned me to the earth, I would crane my neck up to him to see his smiling face and hear his silly jokes. He was my giant redwood tree.
A few weeks ago, we went to visit the redwoods at the very top of California. In all the preparation I did for our first 4 day vacation by ourselves in at least three years, meal planning, camping accessories, road trip snacks, I did not plan on having wild dreams of my future or feeling new connections to old roads. Upon returning and laying Oatmeal to rest, what started on vacation has seemed to continue. It's been quite challenging to quantify, explain or analyze. But you know I've tried.
Sleeping underneath 400 year old trees is a spiritual experience. It felt like I was constantly in the company of my elders. I felt safe and couldn't help but completely revel in their massive presence. It was a sacred space.
It made me reconsider my focus. My whole life has always been about what's next. Everyone focuses on money but not your purpose. Being loved but not giving love. Speaking truth but not hearing truth. Failing to find the lesson in difficult people. We are all afraid of being alone and poor and unsuccessful instead of being afraid that we don't ever really get around to living.
What if I did something wild and crazy and focused on living? The trees don't worry about their bills, their success, their tomorrow. They stand tall and let it come. They waver slightly when the wind blows hard. They fall when it's time.
After Oatmeal passed away, we hung a map of the U.S. where his cage used to be and several times a week, we stare at it, wonder about weird little towns we've never heard of, measure 8 hour drives from our driveway. It's fitting we do this where Oatmeal used to be. Beginnings and endings. They need each other.
In some ways, I feel like the trees were able to give me some peace and connect me to myself. A house will come. A better job will come. Kids will come. A new place will come. Without my interference or planning or anxiety. I've come to realize why Paul and I love the forest so much. I used to think it was because it was quiet and without people. Now I feel like it's a way to visit our friends, a way to come home again, to feel connected to the earth, to remember our family trees and the many people we lost that still reside in our roots, if we let them. We are never alone. And the more we trust ourselves, get to know ourselves again, the easier it is to find home when you're far away.
We could all learn a thing or two from our elders, and from the trees.
"Stay patient and trust your journey."