Trees, wildlife, nature… they’ve always been my thing. When I was a wee awkwardling growing up in Wisconsin, I regularly held conversations with trees. They were excellent listeners, and I had a lot to say. One fine spring day as I was chatting away, I happened to look over toward the neighbor’s house, an older woman who lived alone. She was watching me from her kitchen window. I like to think she was charmed by the sight. For my part, I was mortified. This was private. Personal. I should’ve been more circumspect.
Clearly I managed to shake it off, though, because my awkward, star-gazing, exchanging-stories-with-birds behavior has never fully diminished. I made the choice to own the embarrassment: I chose willful resilience. Look, you guys… I was a gawky, ungainly teenager/young woman*. I could have, maybe should have, kept my head down and just got the job (whatever it was) done. But I owned my love of Tolkien and T.H. White and Cooper and L’Engle. I went apple picking in long skirts, hair done up in braids, because it was the most Anne-ish of things to do. I wrote heartfelt and terrible poetry, epic fantasy stories, stared up at the stars with tears in my eyes because the universe was so very vast, I was so very small, and I wanted to be so much more. To matter. I lived each moment with an overlay of daydreams. Somewhere along the way, I accepted that I was going to love the things I loved with all my heart. If that meant I didn’t quite fit in, that was still easier than attempting to be composed and attractive and capable of conversing with others in a normal fashion.
That choice, that resilience, has allowed me to grow into myself a bit as the years have progressed. I’m still terrible in social situations. I will be the most awkward person at any gathering without even trying. But I’ve found others who share my passions and delights, and who can laugh at our shared ridiculousness. Who can have discussions for hours about a particular author or fandom or cooking show or period of art history, or can distill it to a few pithy observations.
Somewhere along the way, that sheer will of resilience became a part of my core. It spread to the workplace, to performance, to physical abilities, to deeply personal and emotional events. I regret, I lament, I ache and weep and mourn. I recover. I return. Sometimes its by force of will, sometimes its knowing others need me to suck it up and be there for them.
There’s a huge willow tree in our yard. It was one of the first things I saw when we looked at this property, and though I can’t say it was the reason we bought this house, it was certainly bonus. Well, except for the network of roots that had ravaged the third-rate septic system, and for the bits of the tree that have come down in blizzards and hurricanes. It has been beat to hell. It’s lost huge swathes of branches and goodly pieces of trunk. Yet every spring, it’s the first to turn green, a verdant mist clinging to its fronds. I let the whips fall through my fingers each year, saying, “Welcome back.”
I’m a long way from that tiny side yard in Wisconsin, but here I am still talking to trees. Here I am still making connections that might be silly to some, but mean everything to me. Work with what you have. Weather the storms. Bend and sway in the winds that will try to knock you down. Own your battle scars. Love what makes you different. Drink in the sun, in what delights you. Be resilient.