Nature, The Great Teacher
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Nature, The Great Teacher

Life-lessons I learned from a dead tree.

Nature, The Great Teacher
Carie Terrill

My job allows me to be in the outdoors, guiding others through experiences with nature and history. This week I was learning about the process of identifying maple trees, tapping them for sap, and how to take that sap and boil it down to make maple syrup. I learned about the whole process from the time of the Native Americans all the way up until modern times and how the methods have changed.

For the purposes of education, we actually take people out and identify and tap maple trees. I am in the process of learning how to do this, so I was observing a group go through the forest to find trees. We had found a beautiful mature maple, tapped it, and hung our bucket to collect the sap. Someone from the group pointed out that in the woods behind our tree was a large stump with a sap bucket attached to it.

The lead educator mentioned that since the tree had been cut down in the late fall, it still had stored sap (food/energy) in its roots that it would release as the days got warmer and the nights stayed cold. Basically, even though it had been cut, it would continue to produce sap this spring because it didn't know it had been cut down and had no leaves to open in the spring. So for this season we would still be able to collect sap from the stump and it would even bubble up and out of the stump at the top having no where to go but out.

I was intrigued by this tree stump. I had to see it, so in the afternoon we took our group over to inspect the tree.

I've always believed that we have a lot to learn from nature about just being. Nature does what it does. It is complicated yet simple, it is beautiful, amazing, and even dangerous. It can be a great teacher about how complicated things don't have to be fully understood to happen. Trees take sunlight into their leaves, create food for themselves, store it up and go dormant in the winter, and release the stored food in the spring to push open their leaves and start the process over again. It happens naturally. It is what the tree does to survive.

We talked about how it is possible to tap maple trees, take their sap, and not harm the tree. Putting a tap in the tree interrupts the flow of sap but the tree has so much stored that the little amount we take doesn't interrupt the process or interfere with the tree getting ready to open it's buds in spring. After the tap is removed, the sap will be rerouted around the scar, the surface will heal over and the tree continues on doing what it knows to do.

As I stood over the stump of the cut maple tree, I was amazed at how beautiful I found it. I was drawn to it and stood there after the group moved on, taking pictures of it. I couldn't help but think that there was a lesson in it for me. But alas, I was working, so I had to move on and finish the job.

When I got home and looked at the pictures again, I realized that nature is indeed a great teacher. There were lessons for me in this tree stump. Here is what I've gotten so far:

My one and only job on this Earth is to give myself what I need to complete my role as me.

I'm growing and changing all the time but all I can ever do is meet my needs, care for myself and do what is natural for me. If I spend all my time trying to be a bird, when I'm meant to be a tree, I won't be ready or have enough stored up to be me when called upon to be the tree I was born to be. Seeds and flying may be what I think I want and need but they won't do me any good when I'm called upon to open my leaves as a tree.

For example: I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get a Master's Degree. While in the process, my true job on Earth came to be known when I got pregnant with my twins and my oldest experienced a traumatic life event and needed her mom. That Master's Degree did not fill my mom tank in any way, in fact it drained the energy from me and left me with a very low reserve of energy for being a mom. During that time, I learned that I was trying to be a bird (master teacher) and my tree self (mom of three) had nothing to fall back on because I had spent all my energy preparing for the wrong thing.

I have to be sure to limit the amount of taps that I allow in me at one time, or in any season.

Trees have to reach a certain diameter before they can be tapped. It would harm the tree if we put more taps in than was safe or a tap in before it was mature enough to recover from the wound. I had an image of my not done growing self, with taps sticking out of every place they could fit, and me just leaking energy out to anyone and anything that wanted something from me. Do I give too much? Do I save any energy for myself to grow, to survive, to thrive the coming seasons? Or do I let taps go in unchecked and wonder why I have nothing left for me or for my true purpose on this earth? Will I grow into who and what I am meant to be if I allow myself to be drained by outside things and do not protect my growing, maturing self from harm?

Interesting is beautiful.

Looking at this tree stump I saw such beauty. It wasn't because it was a perfectly cut tree that had been protected and preserved until it's passing. This tree had lived, it had experienced many seasons of growing, giving, storing, and healing. The inside was hollow but the outside was strong. When you looked down at the tree, you could see everyplace where it had been tapped or injured and how the tree had healed, rerouted it's sap and continued to grow. It had not harmed the tree to give a little suffer a little, as long as it was done responsibly and respectfully. I have been feeling ashamed of my wounds lately, I think because there seemed to be more taps than I could handle. I think that I had thought that it was ugly to be so scarred and to have to grow around wounds in order to keep going. I looked at others that appeared untouched by wounds and thought they were beautiful because they didn't appear to have the wounds of life. Seeing that maple tree stump and how all of it's scars made it interesting and stood there as proof of it's strength and survival through so many trials gave me hope. It helped me to see that my wounds are just proof of my survival. They are reminders to me that I can't give myself away, I have to ensure I have what I need for my growth, my changes, and my purpose on this Earth.

Death isn't the end.

If we have lived a full interesting life, doing what we were meant to do and being fully who we were meant to be, we will continue to give, even in death. We can find ways to give what we can afford but not more. To find out what fills up our tanks and reserves, so that when life gets hard, we can survive and thrive. We can change course and find ways to heal our hurts and wounds. We will wind up being as useful in death as we were in life. People will stand over us and remark about how we were the strongest tree in the forest, giving some to others, knowing just how to do what was right for you and in the process, showing others how to handle to wounds that are inevitable in life.

I am always grateful when nature shows me how to do life. This one was a big one for me and I won't forget it. These are the days when I know I'm not in charge because I could never plan such a beautiful lesson. Only nature, the great teacher, could have shown me something so simple yet so complicated in a single moment. When is the last time you had a lesson from the great teacher?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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