Forest Bathing with a Willow Tree
The long weeping branches of the willow tree are sweeping around my head, making it feel as though I am wearing an over-sized green wig. A few of the bravest ones gently graze my cheek the way a lover’s hand might. But I’m not thinking about that comparison now as I’m too busy enjoying the sensation. This beautiful tree has been along the water’s edge in my favorite part of the park for as long as I’ve been coming here. Through a haze of thoughts and opinions about this or that I have noticed its presence before. But today I realized we’d never properly met. So far our first acquaintance is unfolding very nicely.
I’m moving through a stream of pliable branches with soft foliage that is pouring from the wooden heart where they found life. There are parts of the tree where the branches are more spaced, leaving room to dance from one to the next as they ever so slightly sway in the breeze. I partner up with each branch I meet for a quick waltz with a childlike curiosity of what encounter lies beyond the previous. Some believe that growing up means to forgo the pleasure of living a fairy tale reality. Fortunately I don’t find myself among those people.
I never gave up my childhood willingness to experience enchanted forests and this tree is making it easy to feel the magic. Its ancient wisdom and natural grace speak to both my imagination and my sense of inner calm. Though I’m fully convinced at any moment a secret portal could appear to give way to an alternate reality, I’m not waiting for one as I already find myself in a place where all things feel miraculous.
As I continue on I enter a part of the tree that is so dense with leafage there’s no space for anything other than the peace that lives there. This area consists of perhaps only one or two square meters but standing right in the center of it I’m so immersed in green comfort it might as well go on forever. That is only one of the gifts that this wondrous willow is bringing me: by shielding me from anything except that which immediately surrounds me, it turns what I might usually perceive as an isolated moment into eternity.
This clearly demonstrates the tree’s ability to effortlessly provide metaphors that teach me something about life in general. If I attempt to look beyond what’s directly behind me or ahead of me I can’t make out anything but a screen of green mystery. All I can see is right close to where I’m standing this very moment. Suddenly a gust of wind invites itself into the intimate embrace in which me and my green friend are wrapped. It gives me a momentary reminder of the world surrounding us by showing me a little glimpse of it when it teases the tree’s branches apart. At the same time it briefly exposes the part of me that was hidden by the green.
Are there people looking at the feet and legs that suddenly show themselves to belong to a human body rather than to the tree itself? I’d invite them to join us if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t notice them at all. They are too far from the center of my attention to enter my conscious world.
The wind also provides an opportunity for raindrops that were resting on the tree’s leaves to find a new, temporary destination. Some of them tickle my face on the way to somewhere else. At the same time there’s the distant sensation of my socks also exploring a closer relationship with the rainwater as it soaks from the wet grass straight through my shoes.
It doesn’t bother me, though it might be the reason I eventually turn my focus away from the tree to face the direction my feet want to move in. They seem to be telling me something about dry socks and central heating. But rather than mentally straying too far from where I find myself at the moment I just let them lead the way. Because as the willow just told me; it’s more important to be firmly rooted where you are than to concern yourself with what’s up ahead. That remains true even when life gives you cold feet of whatever nature.
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