A Promise to the Oak Leaf- responses
Updated: May 16, 2021
The words of response inspire me. To notice, to love, to hope, to rise for peace, and to always keep learning.
I am reminded that exposure to a single word can change your life. For Daniel and I "degrowth" was a seed that sprouted into the post-capitalist library that is taking over our bedroom and evolving our shared sense of what future we are ready to fight for. There are some seed-words in these responses that I can't help but point out. So often we gloss over the words that we don't entirely know the meaning of. Let it not be these seed words, packed with meaning the way a seed is packed with waiting life. Sometimes even familiar words are used in unfamiliar ways that, once we think deeply about, change everything.
Thank you for each and every word.
Four steps to walk within
experience the world around you through your body. Experience the ground underneath your feet, the air between your eyelashes, and the moisture on your skin. Feel the wonder of colors, smells, noises. Notice all the tiniest details. Repeat endlessly.
Choose compassion for all the life that surrounds you. Love the person you’re walking with. Acknowledge the existence and diversity of every human being on Earth. Recognize their importance. Understand the trees, the birds, the fish, the butterflies and the stars are all important. Don’t stop there. Understand the small and ugly things too, the soil microbes, the fungi, the insects and inchworms. Understand the termites and cockroaches, the decomposers and parasites. See their ugly. Love them anyway.
Now look inside yourself. see the parts of you that are buried deep, deep underground, that haven’t seen the light in years. See the parasites and bottom feeders, the vultures and voles. Walk with them for a moment. Get to know them. Love them. Unconditionally.
Give never-ending thanks to all life that sustains yours and heals your many scars. Give back by sustaining the life of another. Understand how your mind is connected to your body is connected to the soil is connected to the earth is connected infinitely. Now you are ready to walk within.
It’s Springtime here in NH. Everything is growing. As a long-time distance runner, I feel my experience with the changing of the seasons is uniquely tied to this activity that lifts me up and holds me together. I become intimately connected to the surroundings of the roads I so frequently travel by foot. Right now the trees are budding and green is beginning to once again cover that edge that borders the never-large-enough breakdown lane. However, with the melting of the snow, an abundance of litter is revealed as well. The violent juxtaposition of the new growth and the shiny aluminum cans incites anger, embarrassment, and heartbreak. Then I catch a glimpse of the sun breaking through the trees, adding that special vibrance to all that’s green, and there’s the beauty. I want to embrace it and tell it that I’m sorry...I sometimes even catch myself saying so aloud. I see you. I hear you.
I have dedicated my professional life to seeing and listening to youth and this prompt has reminded me how closely everything ties together. In a discussion about animal rights in our Spanish 3 class, a young lady stated, “there have to be better ways!” She knows and believes that there are. Another young lady recounted a memory she has of going to the zoo and watching an adult throw things to torment the monkeys as he laughed in amusement. The ability the young have to perceive injustice is beautiful. Like the Oak Leaf, they also have hope. In Spanish, the word for hope is esperanza. When the kids that I work with express a beautiful idea, thought, or reaction to something we’re discussing, I can hear the heartbreak, but also the esperanza in their voices, and that transfers to their teacher who admittedly has become quite jaded and cynical. In the beauty of thoughtful adolescents, just starting a new season, getting ready to pave their own paths, I too can regain some of that hope that the oak leaf and my students share. Listen to those oak leaves.
Thank you for the space to ponder.
I learned that you naturally appear in one form or another, on every continent that humans are on. This means that all of our ancestors had you as a companion. So Oak, thank you for always growing and way showing. When I look at your family on the savanna, it invokes in me a sense of mystery. The sorta feeling where I know that this life is a part of something way bigger.
Something unseen to most, something powerful beyond belief. There is magic to be found. I sense it in the breeze that sways through you and caresses my ear.
I promise you this:
I will give you hugs as long as I can stand.
I will help people innerstand.
I will learn to harvest your nuts, process them, and use acorn flour for subsistence.
I will never give up my dream of a peaceful world for all.
With your steadfast roots and branches sprawled I send you love and deep thanks.
A human who feels at home in a tree canopy
I was with my grand daughter yesterday and we found a dirty spoon and fork and started digging for fun. We came across a worm and we had the conversation of how worms can regenerate and she thought that was quite interesting but not willing to try it quite yet. She is only 6.
She took the worm and put it down. Covered it with some of the loose dirt and made sure it got back into the ground. She said “before it dries out.”
When I was younger I would probably have played with it until it died because at that age we were on our own to learn and science was not taught until 6th grade in our private school. I certainly did not know that I should care about the worm. Today’s HUMAN youth do have as much to teach us as the youth in nature.
My daughter says “I am always learning” and she is so right.
P.S. We made sure we washed our hands when we got home. Something else I would not have done when I was younger! Our weekly baths were all we knew…