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I Killed So Many Trees Today: A Metaphor for Healing

If you know me at all, you know how much I love a good metaphor. I was sitting at my desk earlier, stuck on what the subject of my blog today would be, and decided to take a little break and go out front to survey the garden. We (and by we, I mean 99.9% my partner) are converting the majority of our front yard into a garden, with the intention that it will eventually be a source of income, as well as a healthy food source for us and our community.

I should also mention that we're attempting to do that with minimal (translate: no) expenses. That is no small task, let me tell you. It's backbreaking work and requires a lot of resourcefulness. I've also learned a ton about no-till gardening, soil-health, and the beneficial component of weeds--living things that are part of nature's way of doing everything from providing a food source for pollinators, introducing nitrogen to the soil (clover is great for this!), and once they're dead, compost to continue building.

Caution: I've gone deep down the metaphor rabbit hole here in my mind. Weeds (hardships) as a necessity for soil (us) health...the happiness that a simple shift in perspective about those weeds can bring...but I digress. Today I killed some trees, so back to that.

All that came up because I needed to explain a little of the context. You see, in the beginning stages of converting a yard that's been grass for years and years, ideally, you kill the grass first. One of the ways to do that is by covering it--some use tarps, but another option is mulch, in the hopes that it will not only kill the grass but start to feed and build the soil. You could buy a dump truck full of clean mulch and do it that way, if you had the funds, or like us, you use what you have: leaves and pine needles.

And when you literally live on Oak St, at least one of the trees you're collecting leaves from is bound to be an Oak. And what do oak trees drop every year? Acorns! Thousands of acorns. When you collect them in with the leaves, and then spread them over your garden beds to mulch, you're literally creating the perfect environment for them to grow. And boy do they. Those suckers sat under the decomposing leaves, nestling into the dark dampness all through winter and now they are coming in hot right now. When I say I've probably pulled 300 starts out of the beds, I'm not exaggerating. (Side note and fun fact about me: I love pulling weeds, so I find this quite therapeutic and enjoyable).

And that's where the metaphor occurred to me. Those little trees (most still attached to the acorn they came from) are our traumas and responses. They're peeking through the decaying leaves and reaching for the sun. We could ignore them, hope that nature takes its course, and they don't grow into 110 ft. tall trees that then fall on your house one day in a freak windstorm. We could hope that their gigantic root systems won't suck up all the limited resources from the soil around them, or that their eventual shade wont' make it impossible to grow anything under them.

Or, we could pull them up. And pull them up the next day...and the next. And eventually, we won't have to. Until next year, when the cycle repeats itself. Only next year we're starting with better soil, maybe we are more careful with where we gather mulch or figure out a way to sift out the majority of the acorns. The point is, it won't be as big of an issue, and even if it is, we already know what to expect, and we know we can manage it.

In case I'm being too vague, let me be clear: the acorns are your traumas and you are the soil. Some of the acorns will try to grow--and overshadow or take over your garden, sucking the nutrients from the soil. You can leave them there, and try to manage them as they grow, but eventually you won't have the space or the sun to grow all the other good things you're trying to grow.

My takeaway here is that if you don't want the traumas and your responses to get so big that they fall on your house and choke out your garden, you're going to have to spend some time tending to them when they're still small enough to pluck out with a few fingers. The bigger they get, the more work they will be to remove.

I don't want to leave you without a place to start. One of the things that I think is often not given enough attention is the idea that trauma is not necessarily things that happened to you but can also very much be not getting the things that you needed as a child--emotional support, love, basic care. There's a fantastic podcast called Adult Child that I highly recommend to anyone struggling--especially where addiction or co-dependency are present. The podcast is devoted to looking at the wide array of disfunction that can cause trauma in early childhood and how it manifests in our adult relationships. I believe in my soul that true healing can only come with understanding. It's not about blame--it's about understanding. If you don't understand the whys of your behavior, or fears and anxieties, then how will you ever be able to change them? If you're even mildly intrigued, I'd encourage you to listen to at least a handful of early shows to get a feel for her story and what the podcast is about--then you can skip around to specific topics that interest you.

I believe we are all the products of some form of trauma--if not directly, indirectly through the passing down of generations of trauma responses. Recognition and understanding of your own can be the turning point in changing your life. I hope that when your acorns start to sprout in your garden, and those little trees come through the surface, you are strong enough to get out there and give them some attention.

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