What I Learned from the Rhythm of Nature

Learning from the rhythm of nature

I have a confession to make. When I read a story and reach a critical point in the narrative, I start dipping into a chapter further ahead, because I want to know what happens and I can’t wait. Does this make me a bad person? More to the point, do you do that too? Or, unlike me, can you keep to the rhythm of the story, ride the ups and downs of the plots and wait for the events to unfold?

My page skipping bad habit may be fine for a book, but when I want to know what happens in the story that is life, I can’t skip over pages and read ahead. I have to live each joyful, sad, up and down plot moment, not knowing if everything will be alright in the end. More importantly, I have to learn to live with life and not try to work against it. But how and where can I learn? I think I have found a teacher in the natural world. The rhythm and cycle of nature show me if I am prepared to listen. 

The rhythm and cycle of Nature

In the garden of my family home sits a large Silver Birch tree. It was planted by my dad not long after we moved into our house. The garden back then was a muddy patch surrounded by a simple wooden fence. It was bare, uninviting and devoid of any visible signs of nature. My dad set about shaping the garden by planting several trees. The many trees he planted were thin, small unpromising things that easily snapped. I was responsible for the demise of one. It happened as I balanced along the garden fence, like some great tight rope walker, wobbled and grabbed for something to hold on to. The poor tree was the victim. Over time, and as the trees grew, a few more were culled until one Silver Birch, remained as a loyal sentinel.

This last Silver Birch grew steadily from a small thin twig to a strong young tree that held the washing line. It took our abuses and the seasonal complaints of my mum, as it followed its natural yearly cycle. In the spring it would shed its catkins over the garden, which would be followed in autumn by its orangey-brown seeds. Seeds that got just about everywhere. Then, finally, as winter approached its falling leaves would block the drains and the guttering and my mum’s frustration would be complete. 

In its latter years, the tree was given some much-needed attention and its branches were trimmed. It is now a beautiful, strong tree, that provides shade from the steady glare of the afternoon sun, even if on its yearly cycle, it still frustrates my mum.


Learning from the rhythm of Nature

Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to learn from the Silver Birch tree, as I found myself curiously fascinated by its transformation. When I arrived back in late March the Silver Birch had no leaves on its branches. It seemed as empty as I felt at that time, torn away from my partner and unable to return to my home because of the pandemic. By the middle of April, fresh green leaves suddenly appeared. A whole four months of winter as a bare empty shape and then in a matter of weeks it became a tree full of vibrant green leaves rustling in the warm breeze. A suitably grand podium for a blackbird to perform his daily afternoon concert. 

The Birch Tree in the garden made me recall my childhood years as we grew up together. It made me reflect on my impatience and need to know. As I meditated on the tree, I came to understand that I am impatient with the process of growing and learning. I expect to be able to achieve something immediately, while failure is seen as evidence of inability, not progress and fuels my lack of confidence. I often struggled with my confidence and this has meant that I can be incredibly hard on myself. The natural cycle of the Silver Birch tree showed me that during the winter months there is no sign of growth. The Silver Birch tree is simply resting and preparing for the spring. Suddenly come the spring, it is ready for an expansion of life, beauty and productivity until its golden autumn of celebration. Finally, when the winter rest returns and the cycle repeats. During this time, as this cycle of rest, expansion, and celebration repeats with a regular certainty, the Birch Tree has continued to grow and mature. It is no longer the thin, fragile sprout it once was. It is strong. It is beautiful. It is wise.  

The Long View

When I look back and think how much I have grown, achieved and changed from the girl who once balanced along the fence, I can smile. I can see reflected in the strength of Birch Tree and its natural cycles, that change takes time. I do not need to rush the story of life, however much I may be tempted. It may seem slow, but it still happens, quietly, beautiful, magnificently and that seems restful comfort to my soul. 

Learning from the rhythm of nature

Hello it’s been a while

Yes.

Do you remember me?

Yes, I remember you like a thin unpromising stick in the ground, a small tuft of green on your head.

I remember you as the girl with golden hair, who came into this garden to cry.

Learning from the Rhythm of nature

I am older than you

Yes and once you were taller!

Now you have grown. You fill this garden with your grace

I stayed here and sheltered the birds

I moved away and looked for safety.

Did you find it?

Learning from Nature

What happened to the washing line?

It was tied too tightly around my trunk.

Did it hurt?

It constrained. 

Where is it now?

Inside me. I grew beyond it.

Learning from the Rhythm of nature

Then yes, I found my safety. I found myself. 

Something for you to do

Pull out some old photographs from your childhood and look through them. Take your time to recall the memories those images bring to mind. If they are painful, you may need to be patient with yourself before you can process what has been stirred in your emotions. 

Now write down between five to ten things that you have achieved, or overcome since those images were taken. Read those achievements and triumphs over the next few days and celebrate the cycle of your life. 


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3 thoughts on “What I Learned from the Rhythm of Nature

  1. You have drawn a beautiful analogy and, yes, I too peek ahead – not too often – but I do have a wee peek ahead of a good story.

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