After the Storm: The Gift of Losses

After twenty-four hours of hard rain, in the midst of a powerful and intriguing dream, the crash outside wakes me in the silence of the dark, predawn hours. It takes only a second for my sleepy brain to categorize the sound as a falling tree, though I am still disoriented enough that I cannot exactly place which side of the property on which it has fallen. Not hearing any dreadful crunch of metal or shattered glass, nor any reverberating thud against the house structure, it seems that both car and cottage still remain intact, and I promptly roll over and drift back to sleep in hopes of recapturing my dream.

In the light of morning, as I step outside on the lanai (Hawaiian for ‘covered deck’) to look for the fallen tree, I am greeted by a significant tangle of rearranged greenery and raw wood below the deck. A thirty-foot limb of one of the taller trees has fallen, taking out a number of smaller trees and branches on its rapid descent to kiss the earth. No damage to house, deck or property, however, for which I can only feel grateful… just a good deal of fallen wood to cut up. A free delivery of new firewood.

Our little cottage high on the slopes of Maui’s volcano, Haleakalā, is nestled in a delicately-scented mixed wood of eucalyptus and pine (intermixed with spruce, cedar, and juniper), as well as other trees whose names I don’t know. Given the strong winds that hurl across the upper mountain (meeting no other obstruction as they cross the open Pacific), we frequently lose trees up here (particularly the fragrant eucalyptus with their relatively shallow root system and weak trunks), sometimes blocking the road when they fall.

Fallen_limbAfter morning tea and toasted slices of my homemade, hearth-baked bread, I venture outside to be surrounded by the quiet, elemental sanctuary of my refuge on the mountain; my morning ritual of standing barefoot on the earth in the grass and communing with the ‘more-than-human’ world. I casually wander down to inspect the fallen tree at the south-easterly edge of the wide, scruffy lawn.

Drawing close to the severed and broken limb, what strikes me immediately is the vivid, rust color of the heart wood, gradually becoming lighter and blonde as it reaches the periphery of the limb. I have the immediate image of bone marrow. The interior wood is pulpy, fibrous, and full of moisture; any tree is essentially a wick of water, nutrients, and photons of light. The inner fibers are a far cry from the hardened, cured material that most of us are familiar with as ‘wood.’

Still caught in the imagery of bones and marrow, I muse how wood is not dissimilar from the human body’s bones, which are also perceived as hard and solid yet are actually somewhat spongy, permeated with liquid tissue, and composed of living cells. I bend down to smell the soft, wet wood up close, but there is very little scent… only something akin to wet cardboard. My hands on the roughly torn limb, I recall a hike I had once taken in the mountains of northern New Mexico after a violent windstorm, where the golden aspens had been snapped like toothpicks. It was there that I had first encountered the soft, fibrous innards of tree that are normally hidden from us.

I gaze up at the main tree’s thickly corded ropes of rough bark, its great torso now shorn of a muscular arm, and reflect on how the loss has now changed the ‘energy’ and feel of both the tree and this part of the yard. Without the overhanging limb and the shade it offered, the space below now receives more light and feels decidedly more open, and two thoughts emerge from my observations.

I am reminded that what others perceive as our exterior—either visually, or simply through the persona that we project to the world—rarely reveals what is actually within. We are seldom what we seem. The second thought is that there is always a gift in unexpected loss; sometimes we need to drop something old and weighty so that we can continue to grow upright.

Yes, sometimes storms carry an unexpected gift in their intensity.

The evolutionary journey of an awakened individual is something more than just discovering a spiritual path or gaining higher consciousness; it is learning to authentically embody our soul, our unique creativity, and to offer that forth. The process of becoming ever more authentic is also a method and means of becoming more transparent: less layered over with protective patterns, ever more expansive, and more willing to be a vessel for the Deep Imagination that wishes to emerge through us. Each of us has weighty patterns and parts of ourselves that are ready to be released. Sometimes these elements may seem essential to who we are but, really, it’s more likely that they are ‘familiar’ rather than ‘fundamental.’

As we endeavor to awaken and transform and grow as conscious individuals, we are repeatedly charged with the uncomfortable task of honest self assessment, asking “How does this pattern really serve me…?” Does it support authentic growth, or does it help to avoid a more challenging and risky developmental task… such as being vulnerable, or asking for what we really want, or learning to accept assistance?

Particularly as men, as we endeavor to move towards a more balanced and multidimensional embodiment of manhood, towards an understanding of the Sacred Masculine—essentially a heart-centered and consciously interrelated manner of being—there is much of our protected, armored way of being that needs to drop away. Simultaneously, we must continue to draw up essential nourishment from our roots buried deeply in the earth and nature, deep creativity, the energetic potential of the body, and the mysterious summons of Eros.

Gentle reader, as your day and week unfolds, may you recognize the storms and unexpected losses as cleverly disguised gifts and opportunities. And may you be willing to sacrifice the parts of yourself that only hold you back rather than propel you forward on the embodied journey of soul and self-discovery… all while you continue to grow towards the light.