Nature as the teacher
I take a lot of my inspiration and learning from nature. I learn a lot about how to be in the world around me from what nature shows me, how the trees, plants and animals are.
I recently discovered something new.
Nature has recently shown me something different, and a new perspective.
And that’s about growth and what that looks like.
The deciduous tree model of growth
Quite often we make a big deal about the deciduous trees and how they grow their new leaves.
We notice their verdant growth and canopy during the summer, and then how they let go of what they don’t need, releasing all their leaves down in autumn and overwintering with bare branches.
This change is dramatic and colourful, and we can pull so many parallels to the human condition. We see the trees teaching us to let go of what we no longer need and what is no longer serving us, and to just take forward with us what’s required. The trees teach us not to hold onto unnecessary baggage and how to start over.
And this graceful letting go we see as a sort of a metaphor for our own life and death, but also in the dying of our life stages, certain ways of being, beliefs.
We can pull so many lessons and stories from the deciduous trees, and I think we get caught up in that. We get caught up in the big gestures, the big moments, the big changes. From nothing, to full leaf, to the glorious autumn colours and the releasing of all that was. We see this cycle every year, so dramatic, so obvious, you can’t miss it.
And as humans, we get to kick through fallen autumn leaves, crunching through them on the ground.
Then those leaves decompose, go back into the soil, and feed the tree for the next year. It’s the cycle of life, which again, gives us a whole load of metaphors and lessons.
The evergreen tree model of growth
As an individual, I’ve been very prejudiced against the evergreen trees.
Historically, I’ve been heard to say many times that I don’t particularly enjoy fir wood land. I really don’t like the plantation planting which feels so unnatural.
These evergreen trees seem quite different. Sort of out of place within the release, let go, grow again narrative of our deciduous native trees. But of course, we do have native evergreen trees too.
I noticed something this year for the first time ever.
I don’t know if it’s because something’s changed environmentally so that it’s a more obvious difference. Though I suspect that’s not the case. I suspect that it’s because I’ve slowed down enough to notice over the last couple of years.
What I’ve noticed is the new growth on evergreen firs.
And not only firs, but also evergreen plants, like Holly.
The new growth is a much brighter green, it stands out. It’s obvious (once you’ve noticed).
That new growth, if you touch it, is so soft too.
On the Holly, the new growth leaf spikes are soft, they don’t hurt you.
The new growth on the firs is very soft too, they’ve not got the waxy covering of the older fir growth.
So you can really see this new growth on the very tips of these plants. And it just hit me, that of course these plants grow!
Of course they are growing year on year!
Just because they’re not releasing everything every year to grow it back again, doesn’t mean they’re not growing.
It just means that we don’t necessarily notice it.
It just means it’s not dramatic.
It just means, if we’re going to draw a parallel, that they’re not hitting rock bottom to then kick off to reach dizzying highs.
They instead demonstrate very predictable, pedestrian almost, safe, even-keeled growth, and I just wanted to make the point that this kind of growth is really important.
This type of growth, I think, is underrepresented and undercelebrated.
How we celebrate the deciduous model growth
As humans, I’ve noticed that we tend to celebrate the big leaps.
The ‘I hit rock bottom, had nothing, and now look at me’ scenarios.
We really celebrate those stories, and I see that parallel with the deciduous trees.
They lose all their leaves, they’ve got nothing, they’re over-wintering in bare branches, and then suddenly, ooh, everything’s there.
And even when they lose it again, they do so with colour and grace.
I think we really notice those stories within our human realm as well.
How well do we celebrate the evergreen model of growth?
In the same way that I’ve never noticed, and even been slightly disparaging of the evergreen, I don’t think we notice, or appreciate, or celebrate, the growth of those who demonstrate slow, continuous growth.
Those who don’t hit rock bottom, don’t lose it all. Don’t have these major big life events that are obvious to everyone.
Which doesn’t mean they’re not having big life events, doesn’t mean they’re not struggling through stuff, it just means that not everyone sees them.
They haven’t lost everything in a huge societal way, or a very obvious way.
And they’re still growing.
And that new growth is delicate and vulnerable and it takes time for that new growth to harden up and to become part of the established plant.
That’s the same with any change or growth.
Growth happens at our very edge, just like the trees are showing us.
The tree growth is at the very edge of the branches and of the existing leaf. They’re growing at the very edge of their existence. They’re pushing into completely new territory, where that plant doesn’t currently exist, physically.
And it’s the same for humans.
When we grow, we’re pushing into spaces that we haven’t previously inhabited. It feels scary and vulnerable. We are vulnerable in those spaces.
As we push into those spaces, we haven’t hardened ourselves, yet, to the environment around us.
Protecting new growth
New growth on a plant is very susceptible to being eaten or broken off.
Similarly, when humans grow into new ideas or new ways of being, we’re very susceptible to having that knocked out of us.
When we give lots of credence to the reactions and comments of others, we can often retreat back into what we know; the familiar, old patterns, habits and ways of being that feel more comfortable.
So, this growth is perceptible if we look for it and notice it, but we have to be in the present moment to do that.
We have to be aware enough to notice, and to notice how vulnerable, scary, brave and courageous this new growth is in it’s very being, it’s very essence.
We need to recognise that it takes time to integrate this new growth, be it a new way of being, a new hobby, a new belief system or a new perspective.
It takes time to integrate this new in to our existing old.
It takes time for this new to become habit, automatic, protected and accepted as part of who we are.
I’m here to celebrate the evergreen model of growth too
So, I just wanted to really take the time to say that I see you.
I see the people who are constant, incremental growth people.
The people who are pushing forward on their growth edges all the time and who might not feel seen, or noticed or celebrated by society, others, or even themselves.
I see you.
And I want to celebrate you.
I want to celebrate the growth and changes you are making.
The edges that you are pushing.
And sometimes it’s only after, when we look back over a long period of time, that we see just how much the trees have grown, just how much we as humans have grown.
But what if we didn’t wait for that hindsight or end of life moment to see just how brilliant and impressive we are?
What if we took the time to notice it now, and on a daily basis, and saw that incremental growth, and celebrated that incremental growth for exactly what it is; part of who we are and our great success in living.
If you’d like help pushing into your growth edge, protecting or integrating your new growth, or celebrating your growth, I’m here for you!