"An unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates
"I wish my front yard was all concrete."
I must admit there have been days when I have wished, wondered or said aloud such a dreary thought. It's usually during Spring or early Summer. It's when those wonderful plants magically start growing. No, not the ones that we have planted but the ones that find their way into our yard without permission. The wanderers, the uninvited guests - the plants that we have not found a use for. Yet. Some of us like to call them by their generic pedigree - WEEDS.
As I was "de-weeding" my yard last week I contemplated such a scenario again. However the harder I tried to get them out of my yard, the more my outlook towards them changed. I got wonder struck by their resilience, their carefree nature and even respect of their obstinacy. Their will to grow and never give up attitude is clearly unsurpassed! I realized I had started to care about them while I (ironically) pulled them out of their miserable existence. It's amazing how quickly they can grow without any tending or water, let alone fertilizer or plant food. The perennials that I nursed religiously over the summer were getting beaten by nature and pests. Not these hardy, wild plants though. They were growing thick and fast and if I let them - they would multiply till the cows came home! I begrudgingly annihilated them and turned inwards. I wondered what would happen if I had let them grow. My first reaction was I might get cited by my HOA (House Owners Association). But what if I ignored all of those pesky notices? What if I let the weeds grow without hindrance? I started to wonder - what would the people in my community think about us, the owners? How would commuters and people that know nothing about us, react when they drive or walk by see our disheveled facade? A barrage of possibilities overflowed my mind.
I was on my daily walk. It was an alternative route that I sometimes take when I do not have enough time to do the 5-6 mile trek. I was cutting through the forest trail when I heard a faint conversation from beyond the pathway. I walked towards the sound, treading slowly. From a distance I could see Ben animated whereas Jerry looked solemn. They heard my footsteps and quietened down - not wanting to be heard. When they saw me they relaxed and continued on with their conversation. They knew me as I had walked past them numerous times. I had, on a number of occasions thanked them for their solidity and resoluteness. Their existence ensures our own and nurtures life on Earth. However, this morning I had stopped to snoop on them.
Ben: Have you gone crazy? Why would you do this to yourself?
Jerry: I don’t know Ben. I am just not feeling it here anymore.
Ben: But no one ever moves from here. Take a moment to think about yourself here. Your roots are getting firm. You are getting ample water. You have good neighbors and thanks to the rich township we are all being fed organic tree food! We also have insurance - protected as no one is allowed to cut us down. I would NEVER leave this place till I am asked to retire. Why would you?
Jerry: I understand all of that and I am grateful for it. But Ben there is a lack of freedom here. We have all been lined up right next to each other. We are allowed to grow to only what’s convenient to the township. There is no breeze due to the row of houses, no direct sunlight on some of us due to the cramped area. There is no incentive to be creative. No one wants us to be unique.
Ben: Jerry we are trees! We weren’t meant to be creative. We need to remain in one place and grow. That’s what we signed up for!
Jerry remained quiet and stared towards the horizon. He looked towards his young saplings. Ben had a point. Why would he do this to his small branches? He also thought of Nancy. They were still recovering from a major setback to their relationship. His moving away could jeopardize the stability they had been starting to build. He let out a sigh of mild resignation.
Ben getting confident with his own arguments moved closer to Jerry. He put his powerful branch over his young friend.
Ben (softening the tone in his voice): I know that you are frustrated. It is slow moving here. But all GOOD things in life take time! You can always find adventure in the little things. You can help young trees remain bug free, assist them in absorbing nutrients from the rich organic soil by breaking it down for them. Why move? Stay put and you can become like me, a strong hardwood who guides young saplings to grow and attain the next level.
Jerry cut him off. It was very unlike him. I could sense his gentle soul stirring.
Jerry: I can’t do this anymore Ben! I can no longer preach the message I don’t believe in. I can’t convince the saplings to do things they ought to do anyway. I need a new place, a place where there is openness. A place where there is sunshine and air that I can breathe freely in. A place where I can be ME!
Ben was taken aback and was lost for words. Jerry’s voice now was full of resolve and his steps followed his will. He started to pull himself up from the ground. His roots cracked. I am sure he was hurting but there was none he betrayed. There was no fear.
Jerry (walking away from Ben): I am leaving Ben. If Nancy wants to come with me I will be delighted. If not, I will understand but I need to do this anyway. As for the saplings, they will be fine. All they need is sunlight, fresh air and a place that allows them to be creative. Given those, they will find a way to thrive.
Jerry started to walk away. His footsteps no longer heavy, even after years of stagnation. Nancy started to move slowly and resolutely behind him - trusting his convictions. The two young saplings started to sway with excitement. For the first time they were being encouraged to NOT stay put. They were being set free to run.
I heard the first sound of thunder, a storm brewing. I knew that I had to head towards shelter – away from the trees. Nearing home I saw a great flash of lightning. It seemed it had struck in close proximity to where I had been a few minutes ago. Jerry had fortunately escaped but some of the other trees were not so lucky.
Nature had spoken, reminding me once again that change was just a lightning strike away.
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