“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch
I chose this line as personal mantra and reminder for this year. Little did I know that the ink of my pen would have barely time to dry before a series of unexpected happenings would test my stamina and perseverance. Over and over again, I only had to look outside into my backyard where my old friend, a river birch has taught me free survival lessons for 18 years.
When my husband planted the young tree, our neighbors were skeptical about whether it would make it on the chosen spot. A location exposed to wind from all four directions, in full sun without the slightest sliver of shade. My husband dug the hole as close to a water run-off ditch as possible. He wanted to ensure the small tree had a fair chance of survival despite prairie soil conditions. During the dry summer months in the first year, a hose provided thirsty roots with essential liquid. After that, the birch was left to the care of Mother Nature. And it has thrived ever since.
Whenever erratic high winds or fierce storms hit its branches, they respond by bending, twisting. Whenever sun bakes the ground without mercy, the tree stands tall in perseverance. By wrinkling its leaves the birch sends the message to Mother Nature and us that rain would be a welcomed treat. Whenever flash floods turn the runoff ditch in the birch’s vicinity into a raging stream, its roots must work overtime, or have some secret we are not aware of because our friend has survived them all. Whenever thick layers of ice or snow weigh its limbs toward earth, they allow it. Just a couple days ago, a fierce ice storm that turned into snow bent the four major branches of 25 feet so far down that their tips almost touched the ground. An awkward picture for a birch to do a four-way split of some sorts. The tree had to endure this position for almost 24 hours. As soon as warmer temperatures loosened the grip of the dressing, the twigs freed themselves of their wet burden. Like a dog after a swim. Only once, a major branch succumbed and snapped off under an ice assault that lasted for days. Our river birch has grown into a splendid grown tree. Year after year it grants rest, shelter, and nutrition to a variety of birds, insects, squirrels, chipmunks, and the neighbor’s dog. Year after year its lush green foliage changes into a costume of gold before a strong autumnal breeze rips off leaf after leaf. It has no choice when it comes to external circumstances. Its internal response to them is the tree’s shield of strength.
Of course I hope that the year continues under friendlier skies for us. But nobody can avoid turmoil forever. In those circumstances, I choose to embrace the silent teaching of our birch tree:
whatever comes my way.
To yield to powerful forces.
To see them as an invitation to ingenuity.
To become creative in the face of challenges.
To focus on inner health and strength during adverse times.
To learn how to live with them, instead of in opposition.
To know that their lifespan will come to an end sooner or later.
To trust to get through them in exactly the way the Great Mystery intended.
To repeat this process over and over
About the author
Anja Kerstin Kuentzel,
Advanced Grief Recovery Method specialist, nature lover, photographer, and bilingual wordsmith combines her passions to offer a different perspective on life that might inspire, raise awareness or even heal.