The elder branches of wisdom
The elder branches of wisdom
While on a lovely evening walk amongst trees in our neighbourhood with my daughter recently, we heard an owl hooting from a nearby tree, at which point I jokingly suggested to her that she call back to him with a response of ‘Who cooks for you?’, which is a mnemonic device that I learned years ago to remember the sound that a Barred Owl makes while hooting.
I told her I guarantee he’ll call back if she said this, and on cue, right when she finally exclaimed to me, “Daddy, I am NOT going to say ‘Who cooks for you’ to that owl”, the Barred Owl emphatically responded with his classic ‘Hoo, hoo…hoo hoooooooo!’, at which point we both cracked up with hilarious laughter until our bellies almost hurt! The owl’s timing was truly impeccable, like any great comedian’s.
As we continued our walk, I had a renewed sense of the magic of how Nature communicates with us and would later come to realise how that owl was also providing a prophetic symbol of wisdom to come. Walking amongst a grove of old majestic oak trees, I noticed a number of dead branches that had fallen on the ground and instantly gained an insight into what this scene may be showing us on another level of awareness.
The way in which these elder trees somehow ‘know’ when and how to let go of their dead and rotting branches was to me symbolic of how we as humans can do the same, by letting go of old and inflexible ideals and beliefs that no longer serve us – such as when we realise that we don’t need to look outside ourselves for recognition and acceptance, but can actually connect to a depth of love within our hearts that confirms we are already everything we need to be.
So, by releasing these branches (and for us, the beliefs that were previously rigidly held and protected), this wise old tree has opened up space within its canopy of branches for the Sun to shine its beams of light that so lovingly illuminate all the areas that were formerly cast in shadow, thus allowing not only the opportunity for renewed growth within the lower and inner branches of the tree, but also providing an opening for young, fresh seedlings around its base to flourish in this rekindled area.
Even the particles of dead wood that have fallen provide the minerals and nutrients that act as a fertiliser to help support the young saplings that now have fertile ground to thrive, which reminds me of the way an elderly person, after letting go of pictures and ideals on how people and their surroundings should be, can share their experiences of observing life in a way that helps the younger generations understand the world in a more loving and deeper manner, as well as how they can then support others in the same way.
It’s amazing for me to feel how there is in reality no true death involved here, only the illusion of it being so. Because if one simply looks at a dead branch or the whole body of a tree that has eventually rotted and fallen to the ground, even though over time these woody structures eventually seem to disappear, the reality is that all this material has been transmuted into its constituent particles of energy that are then passed on to nurture future incarnations of other plant and animal life.
Perhaps there is a metaphor for the grand cycles of human life to be appreciated here, by the way in which we may look at the death of the body as ‘the end’, when in fact it may actually be ‘the beginning’ of a whole new incarnation.
Moving back to the observations of elder trees in Nature, there seems to also be an intelligence that knows just when to surrender those decaying branches that no longer serve them. This is synonymous to when we move down a particular path in our Life after making a certain choice (like a fork in the road or the same on a branch that splits into two directions) and we come to the realisation that even though we may have gained a certain level of understanding and awareness along the way, it ultimately does not serve us any more to continue down that track. It’s as if that branch (of the tree and of life) moves to a stage where it hardens and loses its flexibility to a point where it is brittle enough to simply let go and fall away, as needed to support the growth and evolution of not only itself by allowing more light to its inner being, but also that of the surrounding organisms in an act of True Brotherhood.
This ‘consideration’ of the surrounding biome that the elder tree feels to be holding may also indicate just how much cooperation is the prevailing model of life in Nature, rather than the competitive ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality as prescribed by classic Darwinism. There are countless examples of symbiotic relationships found in the realm of trees, one of which is that between conifers and mycorrhizal fungi, where the fungus encapsulates and sometimes penetrates the roots of the host trees, facilitating the enhanced extraction of nutrients and water from the surrounding soil in exchange for valuable sugars the fungi derive from the tree. A beautiful marriage indeed, if you ask me.
Most of these observations came to me in an instant while walking with my daughter after our joyful encounter with the wise owl initiated a kind of greater awareness to the ceaseless reflections and symbolism that nature provides for us to learn from every day.
It just goes to show how life offers a ceaseless communication based on our movements and level of inner connection. Because when we look at every moment and occurrence with a sense of it conveying a meaning and learning opportunity, it opens up a whole world of support that is constantly guiding us towards what is or is not the Truth.
And having my gorgeous daughter reflectively say, “Hmm, that’s pretty good, Daddy!” after I shared my observations that dropped into my mind about the elder oak tree, really brought a delightful exclamation point to our wonderful walk together. She’s pretty hard to impress, after all. ;)