When you go out into the woods and look at trees, you see all these different trees. Some of them are bent and you understand that it didn’t get enough light, and it turned that way. You don’t get emotional about it. You allow it. The minute you get near humans you lose all that…the judgmental mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.

Ram Dass

Years ago at a retreat I used this drawing of a cross-section of a tree as a model for looking at our life stories. We were at a beautiful lodge in the mountains of Colorado, Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp, surrounded by forests that had been affected by all kinds of weather, infestation, and humanity over the years. You could see wildflowers growing out of charred burn areas, young Aspens, and many decades old trees that had grown around a gigantic boulder, unable to stop the trees reach toward the sky.

We made our own tree cross-sections to mark significant moments or phases of our life that impacted us in some way, and that life continued to move on and take shape around and beyond that significant ring on the tree. It was such good a good practice to be mindful of the ways that this event or time in your life did in fact matter, and life moved on and other things mattered.

Today is the day I got ordained a Lutheran pastor in 2002. The years leading up to this date felt quite momentous and foundational. I met such significant mentors, beloved friends, and had so many really powerful experiences in seminary, and the 10+ years following, as a pastor. I am not a pastor anymore. I haven’t been for several years. Today feels like remembering a wedding date of a marriage that ended years ago. It’s a part of my experience and it was what made up my life At The Time.

The rings of my tree for the last few years would tell such different stories and moments that were really important At The Time. My dog Rita dying. Major construction project of our house. The strep throat & ear infection years with my kids. Daily Bread Yoga. Now we’re in the pandemic rings of life. I know that this will not last forever, but life will be shaped by and around this time too.

As I write this Sky Ranch, the beloved camp that was a really significant place for me for many rings of my tree, is burning in a fire that has gotten incredibly big. Colorado is also getting a bizarre snow storm, but as I understand that might cause it’s own complications to taking care of the mountains, and protecting the communities there. I am so sad that Sky Ranch is going through this. But, I also know that there will be growth around and beyond this fire. It is a really big deal right now, and it will be for a while. But, it will not last forever and the story of Sky Ranch will not stop here, but will most definitely be shaped and reshaped around this time too.

This is where we practiced yoga at Sky Ranch for the fall yoga retreat. You could hear Beaver Creek bubbling close by, and sometimes you could hear Moose bugling! And always this incredible view of the mountains. And the smell. Oh my goodness, it smells like the mountains, and evergreens, and leaves, and snow, and cabins, and so many wonderful friendships.

If you looked at your life as the cross-section of a tree, in which growth and change in a ring effects and shapes the growth, as opposed to time-line, how does that change things? Does it? I don’t know. It is a useful image for me to get a larger perspective on the present moment, and especially on those moments in the past, whether they seemed insignificant or monumental.

Peace on your head, You. And please send out some love, hope, and courage to all the communities that are suffering with fires right now. There are so many.

Rachel

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