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The Oak Tree

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Just as the acorn contains the mighty oak tree, the Self has everything [she] needs to fulfill [her] destiny.

When the inner conditions are right, [she] naturally emerges.

Derek Rydall (adapted)


In the Fall, we can hear the ping, pong, pops of acorns dropping from the white and red oak trees. We tip toe our bare feet around the broken shells, sweeping away the sharp shards. Squirrels and chipmunks, they dart and dive, hauling away their bounty.

Dining on the dwindling delectable sips of summer, I daydream of that one acorn landing softly into the cool pillow of the woodland floor. Enveloped by moisture and husks of vegetation returning back to the earth. I imagine its hard-shell softening, soaked in the rich seedbed salve, encouraging a first root and first leaf to soldier through, breaking free.

Young and eager and focused on survival, that seedling reaches deep and wide and far and fast into the soil searching up and gobbling up the unencumbered water and nutrients. It reaches upward, searching, leaning, twisting for gulps of hidden sunlight. It does not think. It grows. It strives. It survives.

In time, the sapling’s rhythm eases and slows, relaxing into maturity. No longer needing the unencumbered, she stretches into the efficient, the elegant, the regenerative. From the gasp of that respite, she steps into her role as the backbone of the forest, opening her eyes to the damage left by her youthful quench of thirst. Fueled by the pain and protection of what she has consumed, she once again races to return what she had taken, hurriedly sheltering, nourishing, spawning.

Year after hundreds of years, these majestic trees, we often perceive as inanimate, open their coats of bark to hibernating organisms, drop their leaves to nourish the seedbed, release acorns for food and new life. With the help of underground fungi and airborne pheromones, these eutrophic[1] conjure women[2] cast nets of mystical connection, catching ahold of the lifeforce above and below. Maintaining the complex and complete ecosystem antecedent to our survival, so seamlessly, so quietly, their grace and reciprocity is invisible to the somnolent eye.[3]

Once my grandfather, he invited me as a child, to study the stump of a lumbered ancient tree. He pointed to her once hidden growth rings, translating the tales of wet seasons and dry seasons, cold seasons and warm seasons, healthy seasons and diseased seasons. I cherish that memory. It was a rare moment of connection with a man generations older than myself. And yet… I find myself wishing… I wish he had considered that the gift was contained within the introduction. I wish he had considered the possibility, the fact, that I am intrinsically fluent in the language of the Oak. That his translation of her tales of survival and triumph, created an unnecessary distance, a divide, a barrier between me and her. I would have loved to have asked her, to receive, to honor. To feel the experience that expanded beyond the lens of his protective interpretations.

I imagine she would have described the process of transitions from wisdom to potential, survival to growth, growth to caretaking, caretaking to invisibility, invisibility to back to wisdom. It is the ancient tree that has crossed the painful chasm of neglect and decay to arrive back to where she started: wisdom. The regenerational vibration within that single seemingly inert acorn.

She would have explained the painstaking and awe filled process of communion with every scar, branch, twig, twist, leaf, sap, turn, capillary, root... Tenderly shedding what needed to be shed, growing what needed to be grown, honoring what needed to be honored, fortifying what needed to be fortified: cultivating the backbone of the experience in which all of life would awaken.

Inhaling the gust of love and generosity and grace, the fair and unfair, the real and unreal, the seen and the unseen, they dissolve. A sensual dreamscape[4] unfolds where I am calmed and electrified by her generosity. By our generosity. For a fleeting moment, at the top of my inhale, I sense the vibrations of every being she has ever imbibed intensify, blasting into the sun.

With each mindful sip of this new-to-me realm, I begin to feel the soft strokes and sharp pricks of heat growing from deep within my solar plexus, her solar plexus, our solar plexus. Pulling me forth, a breathless moment through surrender, releasing into the warmth and burn, I am shattered upon a mound… no, a curl.[1]

Sensing my presence, uncoiling, you, she, they, wordlessly expound with the fortitude of hope and the heavenly ache of wisdom.[5] Guided and tucked[4] into the folds of gestation and incubation, joining the rhythmic movement along the precipice of awake and alive. Stretching and releasing, pounding and reviving, synchronized and syncopated, our chants groan alive[6],

She. You. I.


The generosity

the wisdom

the compassion

the force of life we tend.

In isolation,

in collective.

When it is dark, turn to

her light spilling;

When it is dark, turn to

your light spilling;

When it is dark, turn to

my light spilling;

Forward and backward

outward and inward

upward and downward

beyond this world

beyond this lifetime

and then the next

Our love, our care, our wisdom

It flows

She is you

I am she

We are me

[1] Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer [2] Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison [3] Wintering, Katherine May [4]Rest is Resistance: A MANIFESTO, Tricia Hersey [5] Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd [6] The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd

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