Once upon another lifetime, I was a sycamore tree. I began, as all trees do, in the form of pure potential, locked inside the promise of a seed.
Who knows how long I was carried by the breeze, twizzling and twirling like a tiny helpless helicopter, before I found the piece of earth which would become my home.
I do not remember my germination: That moment of magic when the elements balanced perfectly with the dimensions of space and time, causing my inner potential to stir so intensely that it ruptured my shell and launched me into my journey through existence. I don’t remember, but I know what it was like.
At this time, I knew exactly what to do. No one needed to tell me how to become a root and a shoot. The only things that I could do were to reach toward the light and to push into the ground. Although I don’t remember it, I know that this was the purest time of my life, when I lived intuitively, and my only intention was to grow.
Everything changed though, the day that I grew my first leaf. That is my first real memory of being a tree. Something just burst out of me, seemingly from nowhere, and changed my entire perception of myself. It was like a sort of arboreal adolescence, and I had the feeling of becoming My first leaf was everything. My first sip of pure sunlight, my first gulp of fresh air, it protected my tiny fragile structure from the wind and the rain, and most of all, it was my identity.
I was a sycamore tree.
After that, I produced leaf after leaf, relishing in my ability to transform air and sunshine into greenery. I grew taller and soon I became aware of my ability to choose direction. A sort of tingling in my stem told me that if I dared, I could also grow outwards. So dare I did, and allowed myself to split into branches, each one adorning itself with bright, fresh leaves.
As the moons passed by, I grew into my potential, and before long, I was the fully-fledged version of myself. My roots spread deep into the earth, grounding me and feeding me. My bark thickened and added texture to the strength of my trunk.
But my pride and joy were my leaves: They glistened in the new light of day and danced as the breeze trickled through them. It seemed to whisper “are you ready?” But what the breeze meant by this, I could not be sure.
I remember, one morning, becoming aware of the sensation of tightness in my bark. As though my trunk was growing too wide for the skin it was in, a sort of creeping, crawling itch was spreading over my surface. Then, much to my shame, it began to split.
Only a little at first, but soon larger sections began to peel away against my will. There was nothing I could do to stop this tarnishing of my beauty, but fortunately my leaves concealed the entire sorry event from the world. I became even more grateful for the veil of my foliage, but the whispers of the wind continued to haunt me.
As summer ended, my leaves became more brilliant than ever. As cool, refreshing greens evolved into glorious, vibrant oranges and warm, glowing reds, I knew that I was beautiful. With all the radiance of my new colours, I forgot about the peeling bark that I was hiding, until one day something terrible and unexpected happened….
……One of my leaves began to turn a cold and lifeless brown. It was dry and shriveling, and the corners curled up like the edges of a snarl. The dryness spread through my branches like a sickness and to my horror, I could feel my leaves begin to loosen. I gripped them as tightly as I could with the tiny fingers of my twigs.
I couldn’t lose my leaves; I needed them, although their ability to harness power from the sun and the air seemed to be fading. But I needed them. Without them, the world would see me naked; They would see the fragility of my frame, the peeling of my skin. I gripped as tightly as I could. The dryer my leaves, the louder the whispers of the wind became:
“Are you ready? Are you ready?”
Ready for what? For humiliation? For my weaknesses to be exposed?
“No,” I whispered back to the wind, “No, I’m not.”
As the weeks passed, I felt myself grow weaker, but the only thing that remained strong was my resolve to keep my leaves. Every day, the breeze would shake them. Now, she whispered,
“Let go. Let go.”
I couldn’t understand how at my weakest time, even the wind could turn against me. Holding on became a struggle but I used the little strength I had to keep my leaves close to me. The air was getting colder, and surely I needed those leaves to be my blanket. Then one day, when the wind as usual came, she stopped beneath my branches, resting for a while, she held me in stillness. Clearly and calmly she spoke.
“Listen to me. I am as ancient as wisdom itself. I have blown through every corner of the world. I have seen the secrets of existence. I know how this place works. I am your friend. Listen to me.
It’s time to let go of what no longer serves you. Your leaves are not what they used to be. Can’t you see that what once gave you energy is now taking it way? Believe me: They are heavier than you think they are. It’s time to let go.
Do not be afraid. With or without your leaves, you are still a sycamore tree. Don’t you know that the peeling of your bark is a blessing to you? Other trees don’t have the ability to relieve their tension like this. Don’t you know that your naked skeleton is beautiful? You have nothing to fear.
Look around you. Have you been so busy holding on that you’ve forgotten to look? Can’t you see that this is the time to let go. Look at the other trees. See how many have shed their leaves. See how beautiful their fragility is against the light of the sky. Are they not still trees?
Tell me: If you hold on to the leaves that have died, where will your new leaves grow? Don’t you see you are also holding on to your seeds. Don’t you want to see them spin wild and free? Don’t you want to let them grow too?
Trust me. If you let go, you will become more beautiful. If you let go, you will set yourself free. If you let go, in time, new leaves will come.
Trust me. Let Go. Are you ready?”
Suddenly I understood.
With caution, I released at first just one.
I watched as it swirled away from me and I heard the breeze let out a sigh. Although it was a tiny thing, almost as light as the air itself, I felt a great weight lift from my branches. And so, I threw it all to the wind and as the almighty flurry of detritus whirled and danced around me, I felt like I was flying. I heard the wind laughing and I laughed too, at the lightness that I felt and at how stubborn I had been.
In letting go, I found freedom and peace. In vulnerability, I found power and truth. And in the strength of this calmness, I felt something inside of me which must have always been there, unfelt, lying dormant under the surface:
I felt an infinite spring of new leaves inside of me, waiting for the space to emerge.
In this lifetime, my spirit chose to take the form of a female human being.
I wanted to experience existence in ways that a tree cannot. I wanted the freedom of life without roots; To have legs that could roam around the world.
I wanted hands that could make things, hold things, touch things. I wanted a voice to tell stories, to change things. I wanted senses, emotions, ideas. I wanted art and music and language and community. I wanted abilities and responsibilities. I wanted a body with moving parts, a beating heart and the unfathomable mystery of the human mind.
All of these amazing gifts of humanity come with challenges and burdens that I never imagined. Human life is a complex and beautiful struggle. I am extremely lucky that I am able to remember my simple life as a tree. These days, the leaves I cling to are different: Habits, dreams, vices, addictions, my image of my body, the words of past lovers, money, careers, doubts, expectations, memories, disappointments, fears…
Now and then I hear the whispers of the wind as it rustles through my hair.
Are Your Ready?