Getting to the Root of Things

Recently, I had a recurring dream. It went on for about a week.  I haven’t told anyone about it. Until now of course, because I think I finally understand it.

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The dream started out as a single beautiful tree. It took my breath and seemed to absorb it.  I am not sure if the tree was dead or just dormant but it did not have leaves and I could somehow see its roots all the way deep into the ground, which were almost a mirror image of its branches.

When I  think about the dream tree my heart starts racing and the space on my right hand at the bottom of the V where my thumb and pointer finger come together tingles like crazy. I call this spot my passion sensor. Whenever someone or something stirs my spirit it does this crazy zing. Sometimes I feel it all the way to my elbow.

I only just noticed the zingy spot about ten years ago. So it could just be the early signs of M.S. or something.

I doubt it though.

But yes. It’s weird that a seemingly dead tree with deep, dark roots would set off the alarm, considering nothing else has for quite some time. It’s awful when passion leaves you for a bit. Makes you wonder if never having it might be better.

I found myself drawing the tree. I can’t draw but I thought, well maybe I’m supposed to try. It’s not like I am doing anything ELSE that feels interesting. Something about the roots. Drawing them felt so soothing. Cathartic.  So I said “okay” and drew the trees. For days.

Because the dream kept coming until one night instead of one tree there were many and the branches and roots were all intertwined in this fantastic web. So I drew this too.

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And when I was done I thought “I wonder if maybe the Ents from “The Hobbit” are coming awake. Or maybe there is some kind of alien FORCE trying to tell me something like in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” when people were sculpting and drawing the mountain location where the aliens were going to arrive”. Then rational me said  “Oh my GOD. Bonkers has finally embraced me in full form. It was bound to happen eventually.” So I stopped drawing the damn trees. Because my family was going to notice that crazy had come upon me more so than normal. And because I was pondering drawing the trees on our fence. Fucking weirdo. But you’re humming the Close Encounters tune now aren’t you?

“I’m pretty sure my spirit is broken”.

That’s what I threw out there a few days after the tree dreams and crazy drawings ended. My drama queen way of asking for a lifeline. Or maybe a branch. Or a root to hold on to.

Generally I am not a huge fan of telling people when I am sad. No one want’s to hear about it. It makes them uncomfortable and creates unnecessary pressure. Because I believe that just like happiness, the responsibility of sadness belongs solely to its owner.

Sadness can be a tricky thing. We often have no way of knowing what truly causes another person’s sorrow or how serious it is because we can not be in anyone else’s head except our own, which is complicated enough. If you leave sadness unattended, unexpressed, sometimes it will go away with time. Other times it will fester and grow and possibly turn into depression. Or in my case rage.

My family knows me well in rage. It comes in the form of manic house cleaning combined with wailing in tongues, bloody shins from the vacuum and red, weeping devil eyes, sometimes even a little foaming at the mouth.  It’s never pretty. And the house always gets dirty again, as though it knows I need it to: a cosmic groundhog’s day gift.

The dreams left me: ghost trees in the form of childish doodles. The sad came on even stronger. No one believed that my spirit was broken and I quit talking about it. My passion sensor quit tingling. Rage built and then emptied out leaving toxins upon my household and I sit here now in remorse. Clean house, empty heart, tired body.

My people continue to love me regardless but surely I am better than this. Eventually I always get to the root of the problem, the cause of the current sad. But does it always have to be so painful? So toxic?  

Did you know that there really is such a thing as ghost trees?

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Formally called albino redwoods, these rare trees (only 400 known) are unable to produce chlorophyll, something normal trees need to survive, which explains why their needles are white. It was thought for years that these trees were parasites. But recently it has been discovered that they store a very high level of heavy toxic metals, making them (in my mind) healing trees because they soak up most of the poison keeping it away from the other trees. In any other species of trees, these albinos would die. But redwoods have the ability to graft at the roots so the ghost trees are able to survive by obtaining sugar through the connections between its roots and those of the neighboring “normal” trees who know they need the healing ghosts for their own well being.

I made up this knowing/well being part. I’m not totally positive trees know things. But it seems like they do in this case.

Which tree is stronger, or more important?  Or is it an equal balance of give and take?

We humans sometimes act as though we are completely separate from one another. Alone in a crowd and on our own. We only see our tree trunks and our branches, reaching for something we can not define or truly understand. Standing side by side, separate. Responsible for our own happiness and sadness.

But think on this with me for a minute: are we are not also responsible for both asking for help and for assisting others in their individual journey? We may not ever truly know another’s heart or mind but we must try not to forget that our spirits are infinitely intertwined deep under the surface, at the roots.

We can choose to graft our roots like the redwoods do.

Only differently.

Expressing our worries, fears anxieties (ideally before it builds to rage) is not a sign of weakness nor is it harmful to others. It is a necessary means to not just surviving but thriving. It is a way to open up the channels so that when we are ready we can accept kind words, loving acts, gentle touches, smiles, murmurs that it will be okay even though it might not feel this way. And forgiveness. All the things that ease the pain of the toxins that are a bi-product of our humanness and recharge us so that we can give the same thing back. So that there is an infinite supply of passion sugar. 

Zing.

Ballyhoo from the Chestnut Tree

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I have been longing for the chestnut tree in my childhood back yard. The tree was big and wonderful and from the age of about 9 to 12, that was where you could find me. I would climb to the thickest, highest branch and sit with my note pad, writing down ‘stuff’ and softly singing songs from Heart, Abba, James Taylor and the Bee Gees.  From my branch, I could see the goings on of the crazy cat man to the right of our house. He scared the shit out of me but it was important to keep an eye on him, especially during the summer that my mom temporarily took one of his cats. She actually came to us and gave birth in the basement (the cat not my mom) to four kittens. We kept two of them, gave away two to good homes and then my mom took ‘Mama-Cat’ to get spayed (muttering something about pet responsibility) before eventually letting her go where she chose, which became a flip flop between the two houses depending upon the food supply situation. I remember one afternoon when the cat-man spotted me from his back yard, his scary, scowly, old man squinty eyes zeroing in on me up in the tree, asking “Have you seen one of my cats? She seems to have gone missing”. I muttered back a quiet “nuh-uh” as I watched at least seven cats dart around his porch. In my mind, he had enough cats and shouldn’t miss one. Now, of course, I understand that he clearly loved Mama-Cat as much as he did the other cats and I had no right to judge him or be so self-righteous (or a kitten thief). The cats were all he had. They were his children. He never had visitors and we probably should not have ‘borrowed’ one of his cats. I wish I would have brought him cookies or something (to make up for KEEPING the kittens that I was NOT giving back, ever). I would do that now, bring cookies, or reach out somehow because I have learned to see through the surface of the story a little better…

…but let’s go back (just for a minute) to the tree that was my childhood haven. As I write this, I can smell the sweet, white, spring blossoms, and the fat, pungent, star shaped leaves that would turn bright orange before falling into a different luscious scent of ripe decay that signified change.  I can feel the prickly green orbs that the blooms gave birth to… in my hand… fingers prying them open to reveal the most wonderful shiny smooth chestnuts that always, always brought to me delightful amazement. My mom and dad would pay my sister and I a penny a chestnut in the late fall, when they became a menace to the grass. One fall, I collected a big box of chestnuts, got paid by mom and promptly set a stand up at the curb with a sign that read: “BEAUTIFUL Chestnuts for Sale –Only Five Cents Each”, thinking that surely someone else would see the immense value these beautiful shiny nuts held, for they came from a place of complete joy…why would I not want to share them? I actually sold about a dollar’s worth of chestnuts that day…kind people encouraging a child’s unique perception of what holds value.

I want so badly to be in that tree right now. It is currently February and a dreary, cold, snow covered, five degrees outside and I am weary and tired of things as of late…and I long for my tree…but  I am a grown woman now…so it might possibly be frowned upon by the current home owners were I to seek out the tree of my childhood (which is only 20 minutes south of where I live today) and climb up on my branch and just sit there and THINK, legs dangling, and try to reconcile the child I was in the tree who was going to “WRITE and SING and share with the world every joy she KNEW and SAW even if it meant occasionally coming off her comfortable branch to greet fellow chestnut ‘lovers’ at the curb and describe to them the differences of each unique offering  and why ‘perhaps they should buy five of them, for the contrast of beauty’… with the person I am now, who has allowed a twenty plus year long career in sales to be the definition of who I am but not what I will let myself LOVE deep down inside where it COUNTS because “selling stuff for a living” is the scariest, most horrifying career choice a shy, tree dwelling, creative could possibly make. So I have continued to fight the idea that I have been living authentically all of these years.

With this ever nagging idea that “sales” is not what I should be doing,  I turn to my friend Merriam-Webster in hopes of finding a definition that is somehow less publicly scary and more altruistically creative:

Sale: the transfer of ownership of something from one person to another for a price. Synonyms: bargain, auction, horse-trading, negotiation, STEAL….hmmm.

Sell: to offer for sale to the public. Synonyms: deal, vend, put-up. Some related words: hawk, peddle, trade, boost, plug, promote, tout, dicker, chaffer and my favorite: BALLYHOO, the least likely word to be found in “Death of a Salesman” (which is encouraging) or anywhere else for that matter, which means of course I can’t WAIT to tell my boss how “it took a lot of ballyhoo to get the customer to buy my carpet ” because ballyhoo sounds so much more interesting than persuasion to get my job done …which actually helps me overcome what one dude said to describe the word ‘sell’ which was “giving your soul to the devil for money”. See??? I KNEW IT! Ha!

BUT! Climb up here on my branch and sit with me for a little while because it occurs to me that perhaps an aerial viewpoint might be the way to look at things during this time of my poor me, career choice consternation.  I sit with you now, legs dangling, not as the dreamy, shy, child afraid of the cat-man but as someone who has learned with the guidance of solid leadership, the encouragement of respected friends and the experience that comes from just digging in, to see through the surface of the story. Sales is not about manipulating or tricking someone into doing what they don’t want to do. Neither is it really very intimidating or scary. It is simply seeing past the prickly shells and zeroing in on the gorgeous, unique nut inside (are we not all nuts deep down?), discovering what will help each shine even brighter and bringing it to the table with ballyhoo which is “talk or writing that is designed to get people excited or interested in something” (like carpet!) and therefore a NATURAL career choice for a creative! SEE??? It looks so much better up here in the chestnut tree (thank you for sitting here with me!) I feel suddenly ready once again to enjoy the rich daily adventure that is my career, especially now that I know it involves ballyhoo. Ha!!!