I have a spot under a tree by the river where I love to just sit, listen to the water and let my mind wander. I’ve been going there every day that I can for the last few months and it never fails to make me calm, the longer I sit the better. I noticed something yesterday.
But first, I need to go off on a bit of a tangent (it’ll make sense in the end, I promise). I’ve been thinking for ages that I’d love to get a full back tattoo of a tree, specifically an oak. It’s a long term plan, can’t happen any time soon, but is definitely something to aim for. I want an oak because they have such strength, and when I see a really old one, I’m reminded of all the storms it has withstood over the years, how it may be scarred and twisted, but it’s still standing, still strong. The roots of an oak go extremely deep, there’s such stillness about them. I want to carry some of that strength and stillness with me in a tattoo. However, I’ve spent the last few months sitting under and being calmed by a chestnut tree, so was starting to change my mind. I want to carry a reminder of that particular tree, so my tattoo was going to change and become a chestnut.
Which brings my nicely back to what I had noticed yesterday. While I was sitting there, something fell. It was an acorn. I saw it, but didn’t really register what it meant (bearing in mind I’m sitting under a giant chestnut). After a few minutes, it occurred to me that an acorn falling from a chestnut makes no sense whatsoever, so I looked around some more. The ground was littered with small acorns. I looked up. I saw chestnut leaves. Above, around and beside me – chestnut leaves. At the very, very top, just about visible, I spotted a few oak leaves, but couldn’t for the life of me fathom where they were coming from, they seemed to be growing from the middle of the chestnut. I was genuinely baffled. I stood up, circled the trees a few times, could not spot an oak anywhere.
Eventually I twigged it. It’s the tree I’ve been sitting under all these months. There are chestnuts all around it, and their branches have grown much lower, while the oak branches seem to start much higher. Standing back from it there’s no sign of oak leaves at all. This morning when I went back I had a really good look as I approached the trees, but still couldn’t make it out. As I got closer, I could see that the bark of the trees are in fact very different, someone more knowledgeable might be able to identify the trees that way but it had escaped my attention completely.
There’s a point to this ramble. It’s taken me the best part of 4 months to register what was literally right in front of my face, and it got me thinking. What else have I not been seeing? This is something so simple but my mind was too busy to notice it. The first couple of months of my tree sitting I was concentrating so hard on getting myself calm that I missed half the point entirely and failed to take in anything around me. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve really discovered the power of slowing down, and this morning, the impact of realising such an obvious mistake, was huge.
Slowing down is just the beginning. Today, it’s the simple realisation that my favourite chestnut tree is in fact an oak (and now I can definitely aim for that oak tattoo :-)). Imagine what else I might notice over the coming weeks and months?! I feel like I’m about to walk into a whole new world, one where I have the potential to see, in every sense of the word, what’s really going on around me if I let it happen. One where I don’t just passively look around, but am actively curious about where I am and the people I encounter along the way. The possibilities are endless, and all of this realisation came from simply sitting and doing nothing. It’s quite wonderful.