Today is the first notably windy day of the year. It is still cold out, but I could feel spring starting to elbow its way into Central Michigan. When I went out to start my car, the great pines I parked near were slowly swaying back and forth as they were hit with powerful gusts of wind.
I thought to myself that perhaps I should start parking somewhere else, what if one of the trees gave way and fell on me or my car. I felt more and more nervous the longer I sat in my car waiting for it to warm up. The wind seemed to get stronger every time it belted the trees and they bent a little more with each assault.
My mind drifted to an experiment I’d heard about that took place in Arizona–I believe. The goal was to create a bio-dome that was completely free from the influence of human beings. The experiment didn’t go so well at first, the trees and plant life were weak and the scientists weren’t sure at first why. Then they decided to introduce wind into the enclosed habitat. It turned out that the vegetation needed to be physically pushed around in order to grow strong.
The pines swaying violently next to me and my car had been pushed around their entire life. They had been baptized in the strong spring winds every year. Unless the wind kicked up to a level that can only be characterized as extreme, these tall pines weren’t going anywhere. Even the occasional tornado in Michigan only uproots a small number of shallow rooted trees and breaks apart sick or dying trees.
When I lived in Brooklyn, there was a massive elm tree near the corner that, one day, a large branch just broke off and fell on top of the car that was parked underneath it. The city later came by and determined the whole tree needed to be cut down. You could see from the stump that remained, the whole center of the tree was black and rotten. Sick trees fall apart when assaulted by the wind. Sickness, like other calamities of life, comes on suddenly and often without warning. Thus, it is almost always a waste of time to worry about predicting such things.
The pines next to my car were healthy, green, and still quite young. If there was any sickness in them, it hadn’t compromised any of them yet. In their healthy state, the wind made them stronger.
I found comfort in this idea. Recently, my life has felt as though I am being assaulted from every direction–as though I am a small plane in a hurricane–just getting tossed around by powerful forces. Physically, there is nothing wrong with me. I am in great shape, I eat…moderately well, and I am in the prime of my early thirties. However, being a human being, unlike a tree, I have an emotional aspect that also factors into my life.
Like the physical body, a mind that becomes sick or that you don’t take care of will not be able to withstand the heavy blows that life throws at you. If you let your situation get you down, that big strong body of yours becomes useless.
So, I assessed myself. How’s my moral? Am I in good spirits despite the painful circumstances that I am working through?
Well, it sucks that I couldn’t afford to live in NYC anymore. It sucks that I had to transfer schools and that all of the great friends I made at New York Law are still in New York and not in Michigan. It sucks that I’m having a hard time making new friends. It sucks that I have to commute 90 miles each way four days a week. It sucks that I lost my best friend in New York.
Though I don’t know what will happen in the future, I’m getting my classwork done and pushing myself to do it well. I have been very successful at keeping myself honest and continuing to work out, even when I get home and I’m tired. I’ve been trying new things, like longboarding, and reclaiming old things that I used to like to do, like writing.
I guess you could say I’ve finally reached that point in life when you stop worrying that every strong gust of wind that comes your way will knock you down permanently, and I kind of expect trials and tests to come my way. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to move. Not the first time I’ve had to make new friends. Not the first time I lost a best friend. These are the storms of life. And like the pines that I park next to everyday, I am getting better at leaning back and forth avoiding what I don’t need to get hit with and taking what I can’t avoid with a purpose–to grow stronger.
Back in October when I was still living in Brooklyn and I realized life just got turned upside down, at first I did wish to be spared the pain–to exist in a bubble free of external pressure–my own private bio-dome But now, the thought of living in such a safe space is terrifying. You don’t get strong from hiding from the world or engineering your life to be as comfortable as you can possibly make it. You get stronger by getting pushed around and knocked down, never knowing from which direction the next blow is going to come from, and by somehow finding your footing when everything seems to be trying to take your legs out from under you.
After this morning, I will never think of the wind in the trees quite the same. You have to stand your ground and take the indecencies and tough times life gives you. That’s why those pines are so strong, they are rooted and have never once avoided anything that has come their way. This is a good lesson. It’s also important to be mobile in case of, oh I don’t know, a forest fire. And this is one of our toughest tasks as human beings, knowing when to lean and when to get the hell out of the way–however, I’ll tackle that conundrum in another post. Today, just weather the storm and don’t worry if it comes up on you without warning. Every storm you’ve been through has prepared you to weather the next one.