Tag: Plants & Trees

The Wisdom of Deciduous Trees

The Wisdom of Deciduous Trees

As I write, there is still a lot of color left on the trees, although we are past peak. There are also plenty of leaves piling up on the ground so that when I walk on my favorite trails, my footsteps are noisy and crunchy.

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Outside my window, the silver maple tree that looms over the house is sending many yellow leaves twirling and spinning elegantly to the ground. There’s barely even a breeze, so it must be the day the tree decided it’s time to let go.

It’s as if groups of leaves made a pact to fall at the same time: Ready, set, go! They make me smile because they look so playful. It’s their Big Fall, and they are twirling all the way down. Well, some are. Others just plunge down. But the twirlers and the spinners make me smile. If I were a leaf, I would want to do as much twirling as possible during my brief descent to the ground. I’d want my journey to be as artful, authentic, and inspiring as possible, like the plastic bag scene from American Beauty. Do it with gusto. Dance with the wind!

Yesterday, I had my morning all planned out. Then the sun emerged, and I had a feeling that the trees near the main village intersection would be particularly enchanting with the mid-morning sunlight shining through. If I were to adhere to my schedule and visit the trees later, the angle of sunlight would be different. Or clouds might roll in. If the leaves weren’t still brilliantly aflame by the time I arrived, I could try again tomorrow.

However, this time of year beckons us to take action now! Don’t put it off. Between today and tomorrow – or even now and an hour from now – a gust of wind could come along and bring all the leaves to the ground. You can’t assume the leaves will still be on the trees tomorrow or in an hour.

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The dramatic, autumn foliage inspires me to take immediate action. Don’t just make lists and think about what to do. It’s time to actually engage that energy. What do you feel drawn to do right now? What impulse is arising from deep inside of you?  Don’t ignore it! Write that letter. Send that email. Make that phone call. Go out for that drive. Follow up on that lead. Make a meal for that family, friend, or relative. Say those words you know you’d regret not saying if one of you were to die today. Do it! You never know when it will be your last chance or when following your intuition will open a door or build a bridge that would not have manifested if you had ignored it.

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But that’s not all. Colorful, deciduous trees at this time of year also offer another lesson.

Many times this month, I’ve contemplated what the brilliant red, orange, and yellow foliage means to a tree. Leaves turn such vibrant colors as the tree begins its process of shutting down and releasing them, for they are no longer useful. Summer’s green leaves gathered sunlight like many thousands of cells in solar panels and were the means by which the tree received its energy for this year’s growth. But there’s a rhythm to trees and to the year. Now is the time when trees need to let go of all the leaves that provided them with energy and nourishment. For trees, now is not time to accumulate energy and grow. It’s time be wise about conserving energy and let go.

CountryRoad

Here’s a small personal example: I’m taking an online “money manifesting” course because I realize that, as I embark on a new venture, I need to work on my attitude toward money and raise my “money vibration” before I can go any further. Part of the process is visualizing a new money persona and how it would feel to inhabit that persona. During meditation one morning, I noticed all the clutter was cleared out of the house of my “Thriving Creative” persona. Her living space was spacious and uncluttered, and it felt good to be there. I knew instantly that I needed to let go of a lot of stuff, beginning with several crates of teaching books that were taking up space in the living room. Instead of just knowing I need to get rid of stuff (and I’ve known for a long time), this time I had the energy and motivation to actually do it. I researched best methods of selling books and then followed through – and sold virtually all the books within 24 hours! At the same time, I cleared some space and made some money! So I’m working on letting go of both personal possessions and outdated beliefs and attitudes about money and am discovering that letting go of old stuff opens me up to a new flow of energy. Right now it might look barren and unimpressive, but I’m making preparations for future action and growth! Getting rid of books is only the beginning.

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Soon, the deciduous trees in the Northeast will let go of all their leaves. We may feel downhearted when the brilliantly colored landscape fades to brown and gray, and the bare trees herald another long winter. But the greater cycle is about needing to shed what’s no longer useful to prepare for future growth. Trees will grow new leaves in the spring following a period of rest and reflection. We need to keep the greater cycle in mind and realize that we can’t lose anything that is integral to our wholeness. Anything that can be lost isn’t essential at this time or is part of a larger cycle that we might not even be aware of. There’s a universal rhythm we are part of, and what you think will kill you (i.e. letting go of what used to nourish you) is just part of the broader cycle of letting go, resting, being reborn or rejuvenated, and growing. So relax. It’s all good.

We have everything we need for this human journey inside of us, including the capacity to manufacture the strength and qualities we need when we need them. Just as a tree doesn’t die when it sheds its leaves, we are more resilient than we may believe ourselves to be. Every now and then, it’s beneficial to take inventory of our lives and let go of what no longer serves our highest purpose or surrender to the losses that life imposes on us. What looks like a mighty wind stealing the leaves from a tree is part of a greater process in which loss serves a purpose. Fall is a perfect time to follow nature’s lead and ask: What am I being called to let go of in my life? What can I let go of that is no longer necessary or useful? What losses am I being called to surrender to?

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A couple weeks ago, I rode a storm all the way home from the grocery store. As I pulled in the driveway, a powerful gust of wind brought down a flurry of leaves from trees lining the back yard. Sometimes it’s a gentle process –a few leaves coming down over the course of weeks, twirling their way down. Other times, a strong gust comes along (in the form of either great motivation or external circumstances acting upon us) and removes everything we need to let go of.  This great gust might throw us off balance and not be as pleasant as the gentle wind. It might even feel overwhelming! But either way, there are times when life calls or forces us to let go. That’s one of autumn’s greatest gifts. We can come to know both the gentle and gale force winds as grace operating in our lives and serving a greater cycle – which we may or may not yet be able to identify or understand.

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© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Daily Miracles

Daily Miracles

“Give us our daily miracle. And forgive us if we are not always capable of recognizing it.” -Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

Do you realize how close you are to a miracle?

I truly believe that every day offers us a miracle, a magic moment that changes everything, awakens us, and offers new possibilities.

Paulo Coelho writes a lot about such moments, and in Manuscript Found in Accra, he defines a miracle as “…something that suddenly fills our hearts with Love.”

I search for miracles every day. They are easy to miss. But missing them doesn’t mean they never happened.

Perhaps the miracle was to be found in the impulse ignored to turn in a certain direction or to strike up a conversation with a certain person. Perhaps we were too tired, in too much of a hurry, or preoccupied with our own thoughts and dramas.

Do you remember the 3D stereogram images that were popular about 20 years ago? You stare at the two-dimensional, patterned image with the right focus and all of a sudden enter into a three-dimensional image that, until then, was impossible to perceive. That’s how it can be with magic moments. With a little practice, you might just find your heart steeped in gratitude most of the time. With gratitude, beauty (love) is more inclined to reveal itself, and you can find it just about anywhere.

On a rainy day, the miracle might be found in the rippled puddle that you normally would pass by without taking notice. That’s where I found it today, during the short walk to my car at the end of the work day.

Sometimes you will discover it if you turn around and look behind you, crouch down close to the ground, slow down, step off the trail, take in the details of a single thing, or listen wholeheartedly to the person next to you.

If you tune in to the miracle channel, you will find them everywhere and be transformed. At least that’s been my experience.

Yesterday morning was dark and dreary. By the time I arrived at work, there wasn’t so much as a hint of the sun, which has been rising a little later every morning. Witnessing the sunrise makes a substantial difference in the quality of my day. Filling with light first thing in the morning is a powerful way to start a day (although when the sun doesn’t shine, we can go within and make our own light). By the time I got home from work, however, the sun was shining, and I took a walk with my husband. As we walked, I stopped to photograph landscapes and trees I’d photographed numerous times before. I stopped yet again, knowing they are always a little different.

After snapping a few shots, I commented to my husband that I still hadn’t encountered the magic moment of the day. But I knew I would. And I did. I’m a sucker for sunlit leaves, and the auburn-toned oak leaves seemed to be on fire with grace around a birch tree. It was their moment to shine, and I got to witness it.

Sometimes I feel called by a tree or flower, and when I approach it, it gives me an offering. I feel its energy and my interconnection with it. I might look at it from different angles, until love bursts through.

Sometimes one leaf playing with sunlight at just the right angle can make all the difference in the world if it speaks to your soul. I waited for 15 minutes for the sun to emerge from behind the clouds in order to capture the image below, which had revealed itself briefly moments before the clouds covered the sun.

Over the weekend, I watched part of Eckhart Tolle’s June 2012 retreat at Omega Institute and was struck by something he said about when he lived in London after going through a profound shift in consciousness. After the shift, he felt so peaceful and perceived everything around him as so lovely, though he didn’t know why. A Zen monk told him that, “Zen is really about the cessation of the thinking mind,” and it occurred to Eckhart that since the shift, he hadn’t been thinking as much; there were “vast spaces of no thought, of just perception.” When Eckhart was finding the world so intensely beautiful, he was not thinking. He was liberated from the tyranny of thought.

That is something I can really relate to these days. When I go outside, I can’t help but be amazed and astonished at the beauty in the natural world. It is everywhere!

Even walking from my car to my classroom in the morning, I am dazzled by leaves and berries clinging to trees, reflections in puddles, birds in flight. Every little thing seems to be filled with incredible energy and beauty. It feels so peaceful and good. And during those moments, there is an absence of thought. Love enters in.

I live for those moments.

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The photographs in this blog and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears. 

 © Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Story of Patrick Cottonwood

The Story of Patrick Cottonwood

This year, I have spent much time observing the Eastern Cottonwood trees on the riverside and have fallen in love with them. They have amazing energy and a fascinating life cycle, and I want to share their story with you. Recently, I learned that cottonwood trees are sacred to the Lakota people and are central to the Lakota Sundance ceremonies. I experience cottonwood energy as quite powerful and therefore was not at all surprised to learn of the cottonwood’s significance to the Lakota.

Spring came early this year, and I was able to start kayaking in March, which was unprecedented. I took a lot of photos of trees along the shore, to share images of tree life cycles with my students on our SMART Board. Actually, I was quite blown away by noticing that leaves in spring begin with colors quite similar to the colors of autumn. (How can it be that it took nearly half a century for me to notice or remember this?) I photographed maple, oak, and willow trees and a mystery tree that took a while to identify. The mystery tree turned out to be an Eastern Cottonwood.

First came the buds.

The buds continued to grow

 

…developing more scales.

 

When I showed my kindergartners the photo below, they loved the “starfish” and began calling it the “Patrick tree,” after a starfish character in the SpongeBob cartoon. After seeing this picture, they made a habit of asking if I had more pictures of the Patrick tree. Naming the tree was a very important development, which came entirely from the children. Once the tree had a name, it seemed to come alive and become interesting to them. Even I began to think of Patrick as a personality and wanted to learn more about him.

 

I still didn’t know what kind of tree Patrick was but continued to photograph his changes. Next, the catkins developed –  drooping strands of tiny flowers.

 

 

 
 
 
Eventually, tiny leaves came out and began to unroll. 
 
 
 
The leaves continued to grow, appearing shiny and waxy at first.
 

 

 

At this point, I had become downright intrigued with the “Patrick” tree, did some research, and was able to identify him as a cottonwood. The next day, I went to school, excited to tell the children that I learned Patrick’s last name. He has been “Patrick Cottonwood” ever since, and I just love that name!

Patrick Cottonwood’s leaves continued to grow in size and deepen in color, losing their waxy sheen.

 

I have read in multiple sources that one of the reasons why the cottonwood tree is considered sacred is because its leaves provided a pattern for the tipi. According to The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion by Kathleen Cain, Lakota (Sioux) holy man, Black Elk, explained that children began making little play houses from cottonwood leaves, which inspired the elders to construct tipis. In addition, if an upper branch of a cottonwood tree is cut, the cross-section reveals a five-pointed star (which seems to explain the five-pointed starfish pattern of the buds).

 

I read that cottonwood trees are either male or female, and that the name “cottonwood” derives from the appearance of the female cottonwood tree in fruit stage. I was eager to see which cottonwood trees would go through this stage in late spring. Patrick didn’t, which meant he was, indeed, male. But here is a photo of a tree across the river from Patrick producing green fruits that contain cottony seed clusters quite similar to milkweed. The children named this tree “Fluffy.”

 

I explained to the children that Fluffy was Patrick’s girlfriend, and he sent gifts (pollen) to her through the wind, and then she would reciprocate by becoming cottony and releasing cottony seed fairy babies into the air when the little fruits opened. Patrick and Fluffy love to give each other gifts!

 
 
On windy days in late spring, I enjoyed stopping to float near the cottonwoods and watch the seed fairies fly into the wind. (Fortunately, I seem to have outgrown my pollen allergy.)
 
 

Here (below) is Patrick, living peacefully on the riverside. Cottonwoods are similar to aspens in that their leaves quiver and rustle in the wind. When I approach Patrick Cottonwood by kayak, he is an endearing sight because it looks like his heart-shaped leaves are waving hello and beckoning me to pay him a visit – which I do. I rest for a while beneath his canopy of leaves. This is one of my peaceful places where I bring my questions and often find answers. Patrick teaches me a great deal about patience.

 

Patrick looks pretty much the same throughout the summer.

 

But now, on the first day of autumn, his leaves have begun to turn gold, much like human hair turns gray with age and wisdom.

 
 
Soon he will be completely golden and then will release his leaves throughout October until a late October breeze comes along and leaves him bare. And then he will take a long nap. When he awakens, the fascinating process will begin again – one big circle that includes a time for rest. As I watched what seemed like millions of cottonwood seeds floating on the river back in late spring, I wondered where the new generation of cottonwoods would make their home. Only time will tell.
 
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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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