In Stillness Together, Yet Apart

Go to the trees, says my inner voice. Go to where nature’s calm thrums louder than human anxiety. Sidle up to bark, birds, flowers and water. Align with natural rhythms as a reminder that not everything has changed. This is what I keep hearing. And so that’s where my kids and I have been since schools closed, grocery store shelves emptied, and physical distance became a way of honoring our interconnectedness and solidarity.

The world is shaking, my friends. Shaking with illness, traumatic change, loss, and instability. Anxieties are high. Social interactions low. The current state of affairs creating a pressure cooker for fears. And none of us knows how this will playout or for how long. I feel helpless to make a vast impact. I feel empowered to make small ones. One of these is enforcing an inner calm so as not to add to the collective chaos. For me, that means going to the trees. It always has.

During college and for decades since, I’ve visited one particular pine tree in Colorado that smells like butterscotch and exudes timelessness. The rainforests on Kauai’s North Shore provided solace after The Towers and lives crumbled on September 11, 2001. At the time, the Hawaiian Islands were home and their emerald mountains my cathedral. In 2017, when the crowd pressed tight and suffocating at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. my friends and I found breathing room around a large oak’s roots. 

I know that nature may not be accessible, or even safe to access, for everyone. Each of our situations is different. However, we do each have the ability to access an internal stillness no matter where we are. May we gather in stillness together yet, apart. 

I’ll leave you with a quote from Richard Powers, The Overstory. “First there was nothing. Then was everything. Then, in a park above a western city after dusk, the air is raining messages. A woman sits on the ground, leaning against a pine. Its bark presses hard against her back. Its needles scent the air and a force hums in the heart of the wood. Her ears tune down to the lowest frequencies. The tree is saying things, in words before words.”

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