A path winding through mature trees and past the waterside in the wintertime.


First published on February 22, 2022, on TenMillionBaskets.com.

It was the umpteenth hour of the umpteenth day, and again, I felt stuck. 

I was mired in a fog of forgetfulness, unable to remember who I was or why. My awareness had long ago packed its bags and exited the frame of my consciousness. All I was left with were my thoughts, mistakes, and fears.

It’s a heavy feeling, this state of being stuck. 

My arms and my feet would move. My head would turn, and my eyes would open and close. My chest would heave with each breath. Yet, my legs are pylons of lead, keeping me fastened to this spot. My heart is frozen and heavy. Unusable. Untouchable.

A thousand threads of thought tangle my mind. I am not moving. I am not going. I am stuck. In this thought, then that one.

How will I write? 

How will I speak? 

How will I do? 

How will I live? 

I ask these questions of the tree, the one that stands in my yard. She also appeared stuck, frozen in place by mounds of snow and ice. “We are both victims of winter,” I tell her. “Inundated by storms and frigid temperatures. Bereft by dwindling light and ever-grey skies.”

Tree smiles as she watches the blue jays play in the top of her limbs. She holds out a branch of welcome. I climb it and sit in the crook of her arms. Excited blue jays settle in beside me.

“What bothers you, my child?” Tree lovingly asks. 

Snow frames her scraggly boughs, and her branches creak and groan from the wintery bluster. Yet there she stands. Stuck. With nothing but birds and my wandering woes.

“I am stuck!” I tell her. Stuck like the unlucky fellow who unwittingly paints himself into the corner of the room. Stuck like a miner who has forgotten which one of the hundred holes keeps the treasure. Stuck like the mountaineer who trudged up the mountainside – head down, pack heavy, braving the wind and storm – until he realized that this was not the mountain he was meant to climb. Stuck he is because he is too far up the mountain to think about turning around.”

This Tree smiles and hugs me closer to her core, where the warmth and wisdom of all trees is stored. 

“You should go and see my sister,” Tree replies. “She lives by the water’s edge. She is the wisest of the wise trees. She will know what you need.” Tree as she sets me aground. She takes a graceful bow as she draws me a map in the snow with her scraggly branch arms. 

Then I walk the path to the water’s edge, following the way that winds over frozen bridges and past bulrushes that stand to attention, stuck as they are in the deep freeze of winter. 

I meander with the path in search of Tree’s sister. I am moving, yet stuck. I am heading towards the new tree. But I am stuck in the tangle of my thoughts.

Each step thickens my fog of forgetfulness; eventually, I lose my way.

And, once again, for the umpteenth time, in this umpteenth hour, on this umpteenth day, I am stuck.

“This is hopeless,” I tell myself as I sit on a bench overlooking the frozen waterside. All I can do is cry. 

I cry my sobs of defeat and weariness. 

I cry until the wind catches the spray of my tears and lifts them toward the bough of the tree overhead.

I cry loud sounds that wake the sleeping winter waterside.

And then.

“What hurts you, my friend?” A new Tree asks.

“I am lost,” I answer from behind my tears.

“Then I am lost with you. For you are here with me, in this space by the waterside,” this Tree replies.

“I guess that is fitting,” I tell my new Tree friend. “For I am stuck too, just as you are.”

“Oh, but I am not stuck, my friend,” said the Tree. 

“I am exactly where I want to be: Here at the waterside — looking out at the sun. Riding the tide of the seasons, one by one. And calling this place of centeredness “lost” when strangers like you come along.”

“But you are not moving,” I counter. “You are not striving to be. How can you say you are not stuck, just like me? What is there for a Tree in this place year after year? The world is moving and changing, and time marches on. There are things to be done and beings to take care of. Yet here you are, frozen in place and rooted to the ground. Face it, Tree: You are stuck. Just like me.”

My new tree friend ponders my words, and eventually, she agrees. “You are right. I am stuck,” she says quietly.

"I am stuck by this vista overlooking your seat, but believe it or not, I see this as a great place to be. I am frozen in place, and I am rooted to the ground. I cannot chase things to do or search for beings to take care of. 

Yet, they find me. They seek my care. They come to me in this place where I am meant to be. I am not moving. I am not striving. I am just here – being a tree.

Being me takes no effort. There is no movement. No show.

I bend with the wind because I want to dance. I awake with the sun because I want to celebrate its glow. I tend to the birds and shelter the beasts because it serves my soul. Yet I do not move. I do not strive.

So, yes, I am stuck!  And happy to be so. But tell me, friend, would you dare greatly and choose to be stuck with me: an unmovable, rooted, non-striving tree?”

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