On Trees

It is May Day, but spring has been late to this part of the planet. The daffodils are just starting to bloom, but their trumpeting seems tentative, not blasting like some springs, and the tulips aren’t yet brave enough to stretch their necks up. Leaves are a long way from gracing the trees: it has been six long months since the world was green. But the snow is finally gone and it’s warm enough for morning walks.

This reawakening of nature has nudged my spiritual side awake. My somewhat regular meditation practice, which I took up last fall (I have over the years meditated only sporadically but fruitfully), was disrupted by my pre-chemo illness at the start of winter. Then my medications (very stimulating steroids) made it too difficult for me to be still for my evening’s hour of meditation in the bath (the most comfortable place for me physically). I’ve since lowered my dosage, but now my piccline (an IV catheter in my arm that stays in long term) means no baths.

I’ve missed being in that meditative space, so it’s time to find another way in to a regular practice. I’m doing my best now to devote an hour of the day to spiritual pursuits (I like early morning, though that’s also my best writing time). I don’t want to call it meditation, since some of this time might be contemplative reading, or a nature walk, or even journal writing. I don’t think it matters, as long as my focus is on connecting to my spiritual place in the universe. I especially like walking meditation, which is most wonderful in the woods when I can get to them.

tree-with-roots-drawing-34When I sat in a brief meditation one day last week with Roy, the image of the tree came to me. I thought about the mirrored structure of the root system below ground and the branches above. The roots draw nourishment from past life, from dead organisms that have decomposed into fertile soil. The leaves on the branches gather energy from the sun, the light of the present moment. The tree then expresses itself by flowering and producing the fruit and seeds of the future.

As humans, we do this too. We are rooted in the past, formed by all that has gone before us—death, in other words. But we are also taking in everything from the present. And these two sources, past and present, or death and life, inform the expression of our selves and our creative spirit; the two together produce the gifts we offer the universe in turn—our own flowering of self and the fruits of our being.

more blossoms

So it is essential that I look to the past and understand what has come before me, as well as cultivate my relationship with death itself. Heidegger (my philosopher friend Susan Judith has introduced me to his ideas about death) would agree with this: he believed that only those who truly grasped mortality could be authentic and fully human. But it is also essential that I engage with the present moment, as the leaves with sunlight. These two dimensions are what help me to develop as a person as well as to express myself, offering my gifts to those who survive me, to the future. These pursuits will continue as long as I am alive, to the very moment of death itself.

About susanbriscoe

English teacher, writer
This entry was posted in On Dying and Living and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to On Trees

  1. shelleycanada says:

    Susan look at this video, it expresses that duality from the start.. the energy of the sprout. https://www.facebook.com/Avantgardens.org/videos/2343405195673228/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cate says:

    This was a lovely, contemplative way to start my day. Thank you. Although I don’t have a diagnosis, the reality of mortality increasingly insinuates my life. It shapes my thinking about my remaining time: Where to live? How? To what might I most fruitfully offer my aging heart and mind? I feel as if I am beginning to train for dying, though I suppose that will sound morbid to many people. Not to me, though — and I suspect not to you. Thanks again for sharing your experience, which lessens the world’s loneliness. A worthy way to live — and die.

    Liked by 2 people

    • susanbriscoe says:

      Thank you for this thoughtful response! Those seem like some of the best questions for all of us mortals.
      How glad I would be to lessen the world’s loneliness by even the smallest measure: a worthy pursuit indeed. And yet, now that I think of it, how often I don’t when given the chance in direct interactions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cate says:

        For some people, it’s easier or more natural to offer good indirectly, including forms of creative expression such as your blog. It’s also easier for some of us to receive goodness in that form, which speaks implicitly to our common experience in a way that direct, specific acts of goodness do not. That’s part of the loneliness ameliorating aspect, I think, and for me creates heightened value.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your last sentence is very powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dragoneye says:

    “…I don’t think it matters, as long as my focus is on connecting to my spiritual place in the universe.”
    I have also felt the same regarding the various alternatives to sitting meditation and their significance to my practice.
    I really love your observations on trees. Find one you can hold. I hope the energy from that brings you some love 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Susan, do you have a contact email? There’s someone I think you could help, and would like to describe the situation privately. Much love and respect to you, and a big hug too


  6. Boy Blue says:

    Hi Susan (and Roy) I was the nut job who screamed out “we love you!” From the Jeep as you and Roy were walking up the Glen. Sharon and I read both your and Roy’s blog. I was commenting to Sharon yesterday how the serenity and authenticity of your writing has helped me get a better understanding of what we will all eventually face.

    Liked by 2 people

    • susanbriscoe says:

      That was great! Roy recognised you right away. I am a little slower. It really made us grin! We ought to do a proper encounter and meet you standing still one of these days. Love to you both!!


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  8. I’d not been able to read your blogs due to extreme whirl-windiness in my life. I was grateful to settle in and read this blog today. I thought of you during meditation this morning and wondered how you are. Wishing you beautiful peace. Thank you for all your powerful shares. Much love.


  9. Kathryn Green says:

    Susan, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences at this time in your life so eloquently and honestly! I co-direct the Saskatoon Threshold Singers, a group that sings to people who are dying; we are always seeking opportunities to reflect on our own mortality and end-of-life experiences in order to bring our best selves to this work. Yesterday at our practice I read an excerpt from your Huffington Post article that was very helpful to us. (Coincidentally, I’m also a member of the Saskatoon Unitarians!) I’m glad I found you!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pingback: On Trees – by Susan Briscoe (from The Death Project) – Lori Knutson

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