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Angled trees and the adequacy of imperfection

Angled trees and the adequacy of imperfection

I spent the past week in Idaho and Wyoming. I was dreading this trip - the dread was simply nervousness and it was a best case scenario week. Surreal days, all four of us atop the rental car snapping pictures of bison and birds and trees and mountain.


The last full day, we went through Grand Tetons National Park to Yellowstone National Park. The dread arose again when I woke up that morning. I could feel it climbing from my toes to my brain, stretching out to my fingertips that reached for my phone to distract myself. But my brain spun full throttle. Why am I dreading a gorgeous day in nature? It was Tuesday, the clearest weather we were granted all week. We were going to see wildlife and geysers and water. “Yellowstone is bigger than Rhode Island!”


The dread mimicked fatigue. I did not want to climb out of bed or up into the car. But when we got into the park I was relieved. The Earth is mighty and powerful. My little section of view, out the back left window of our rental car was more than I could possibly soak in while we drove, and then I turned my head and there, on the other side of me, stood infinitely more. Expanses of trees, crisp ones and wispy ones. Burnt ones and young ones. Tilted and upright. And the birds, flying so high above my head they disappeared into the clouds and came back down as little dots in my vision. And the water of the Snake River, continuously flowing. Unstoppable. All this motion, all this energy, and I was sitting, simply fatigued. Daydreaming of all the work I needed to do and what jobs I saved on Indeed and how I would make my summer productive.


My research is concentrated on nature. If anyone should appreciate the beauty of the natural world, it should be me, the woman that lectures everyone about nature’s powerful impacts on our minds! It restores mental capacity! It decreases stress! Increases positive affect! Decreases negative rumination associated with depression! Nature! Nature! Nature! Love the world! “Ok, thank you, Kirby,” I am quieted, everyone is fucking tired of hiking and does not care.


But there I sat, seemingly bored. In reality - I look back now and see -I was filled up. Overflowing in fact.  Absorbing endless tree lines and ancient mountains. Zooming in on soaring birds and bison eyes. Noticing tiny new leaves sprouting along hikes and interweaving branches above. Inhaling pure mountain breezes and new rain. My body was thriving. But it needed a rest.


And now I am home, reflecting on my time there.


I live in a picturesque area of our world. The mountains feel close enough to touch from my small kitchen window. The sunset blinds me at night if I sit at our tiny dinner table. The morning sun makes me sweat in the morning while it feeds my plants. The worst part of my city is the tourist bug that infests my world each summer and winter break.

Because it is b e a u t i f u l here!


Still, six days of max capacity nature restoration is not my norm.


So I reflect, now that I am in my urban home hearing the roar of 30th street traffic below my window - the occasional impatient honking, the all-too-common sirens turning toward the retirement community near me, the bass of car stereos fueling the good time of others. Now that I can look through each of my photos as a happy memory.


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The two tilted trees I took a picture of, I stare at, entranced by the angles they created with the upright forest in the foreground. I love the lines in nature. When I doodle, I do so with heavy line work because of my intrigue in the angles and shapes of the natural world.


These two trees, sometimes are what I imagine Sam and I look like if one could see our souls amidst the foreground of the rest of the world. On a different path from the norm. Confused and angled. The upright souls slowly shaking their heads at us as we deviate. Each time we are rejected from jobs we tilt a degree further. And again when we spend a sunny day in bed. Another when we sign up for yoga and do not go. One more degree when we wonder if we have any passion at all. Again for our feelings of purposelessness. Tilting down and down, away and away. But all this, and I ignore the moments we feel mighty. Hand in hand, walking toward a boulder to sit on with a perfect view of the horizon. When we feel proud of our interviews or when he reads what my best friend wrote in a letter and tears up with love for me and for her. Or when I awake in the morning and the sun is projecting the shadows of his eyelashes onto his cheeks as my cat purrs against my chest.


Cut off from the photo are the trees’ roots and the trees’ tops. The roots, still in the ground. Likely intertwined with the roots of others. Their tops, leaning sturdily on the upright trees. The angles they create a product of each other and those around. The imperfection making the forest interesting. The irony of feeling inadequate and existing as one should.


Because, we all feel like the slowly falling trees. We focus on our imperfection. We ruminate on our lack of ability and our differences and our nagging dissonance between who we are and who we want to be. And we ignore the seeds we have propagated below us, growing new roots and new leaves. We feel guilty about the others we lean on and forget about our own roots still in the ground. We assume others are straining due to our weight but we are blind to the foundation we provide for others - just by existing, just by being here, now, in a forest of angles, and lines, and imperfect perfection.


I did not notice and capture every tree in the forests I was absorbed within. But know that the trees I missed still grow, they still create seeds, and nests for birds, and camouflage for creatures, and roots for the soil. They are part of the density that is so captivating.


My nature capacity can never truly be full, because I am one with the trees. I am connected to the birds. I exist in this world, a single trunk in a forest of lines. A vastness of paths, and souls, and angles.


We are all in this - adequate and necessary.


I realize now, my dread was nervousness of who I would be that day. Would I be annoying? Would I be enough? Would I seem appreciative enough? These questions are heavy, fragments of the need to match who I am with who I want to be rather than resting in the present. This is not to say one should not strive for betterment, but it is a testament to the negative power of lacking self-acceptance.


But, learning these greater lessons in the clarity of foresight is the beauty of memory. When memories circle back from your past, squeezing from the back of your skull to the front of your forehead, know that you will learn. You are human. You are natural. You are leaning down as much as you are a foundation for someone else. Foresight is not guilt it is power.


Inadequacy is nervousness and fear masking the truth.


Does this make any sense at all?




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