By Lakshmi Jagannathan
Sunlight filters through the branches casting shadows on the water. A gentle breeze ripples the reflection. Long thin branches, bend low — heavy with bright green leaves. The ground is dry and rocky, the leaves wilting in the heat.
Suddenly, the skies part and rain comes in sheets blanketing brown hills as if Gods and Goddesses from Oregon have traveled South. The Guadalupe River almost floods its banks. The tree becomes a stranger – unreachable. I have mixed feelings about nature’s bounty. Is this the ending of a relationship?
The waters eventually recede and wildflowers cascade extravagantly down the slopes. I find a broken branch lying on the ground. I take it home and plunge it in water. Willow will root so easily that you can even use water steeped in it to root rose cuttings. Nothing mystical about that – just the effect of plant hormones.
Speak less, listen more.
I visit the willow tree because she listens. Silence. Breath. Leaves. The flutter of a duck’s wings as it lands on the water.
The world is a mirror.
“Ginny!” said Mr. Weasley, flabbergasted (In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling). “Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain!”
Some people say the reality you see outside is a projection of your thoughts. You attract who you are. Hard as it might be, we must take ownership for what is. We rant and rave at misogyny and bigotry while we actively participate it in it. As we have seen from many recent news stories, it’s obvious that the objectification of women is alive and well in the workplace.
And Racism was creeping and crawling under the rock all the time. When I first came to live in Oregon people like me were often asked this question: “When are you going back?” I thought I was putting down roots, but apparently, I was quite foreign. Looking back now, I realize what the term micro-aggression means. “Do you live here or work here?” – a playgroup Mom visiting my home.
Examine your prejudices. I had to confront mine. (Why weren’t Islamic leaders more vocal about condemning terrorist attacks?) Until a cashier at a grocery store confronted me after a terrorist attack. I got the feeling that she felt “my people” were responsible. A couple of months ago I participated in a rally to support Muslims.
Is it possible that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is actually holding a mirror to the Voldemort in all of us?
You are not your story.
They say grief has different stages. Whatever this dark beast was also had stages for me – Disbelief, Acceptance, Sadness, Outrage, Anger, Personalization. Yes, suddenly it was all about me.
It’s easier to rail against a common enemy then battle with your inner demons. But actually, our own stories hurt us the most. They change all the time – good, bad, ugly, wondrous. Love, Betrayal, Fame and Misfortune. Characters come and go. Some are there only in the first Act, some last to the end. All the world’s a stage, and we must play our part.
Write a new script.
We don’t have to be victims, though.
Below the surface of our rocky mind is a stillness. And there we can write our new stories and allow them to unfold in their own time. A life force can emerge out of a dead, abandoned stick.
Meanwhile, walk on a sandy beach, teach a class, bake a vegan, paleo chocolate cake.
There is a flutter of wings and suddenly I see it – an egret so big! I whip out my cell-phone, just a little terrified. It stares, almost as if it wants to advance towards me. In a second, it changes its mind and it’s gone – small now – up in the sky, white against a cornflower blue.
Btw, before you go, stop sharing every @#$&ing thing on social media.
Wow. I didn’t know a willow could cuss like a sailor.
And listen, hey, don’t walk away from me!! Get your $#@ together.
When are you ever going to write that book. What about your online energy healing community idea?
I know, I know, stop nagging me. It’s just that my life is so complex!! Time is like a thick sweet syrup, trickling sluggishly into a drain. I have insomnia I wake up tired and then drink a lot of coffee and then I can’t sleep at night. And then.
Excuses, Excuses. Never mind. It’s Ok. Life is not an Amazing Race. Nothing to prove to anyone. Just be.
Photographs: Lakshmi Jagannathan
Trees seem to be a theme in my life, says Lakshmi Jagannathan.
“As a grad student many years ago at the University of Massachusetts I developed techniques to propagate a tree in vitro – Paulownia tomentosa, the Empress Tree. Revered in Japan, bridal chests were made from its wood. Later, long before social media, I attempted the creation of a portal for authors and their readers called Gulmohar (aka Flame Tree – a tropical tree with bright red flowers).
Now it’s a Willow Tree that inspires me to create a community to nurture emotional and mental wellness. If you are interested in knowing more or offering your expertise, contact me.
Join this Facebook page: fb.me/WillowTreeTalk
Visit my blog: Living La Vida Pura
Editor’s note: I met Lakshmi in the fall of 2007, when she was one of a dozen people selected for The Oregonian’s Community Writer program. Her love of the natural world is evident in this piece, as is her sense of humility and her striving for a more equitable world.
Tomorrow: Emily Zell, Organizing my way back into life