Today, I planted a young Horsechestnut tree.
So slim and flexible
I could have rung my fingers round that skinny trunk.
Oh, you are built to survive a vernal storm.
Listen to me, though—
endure the wind’s force without resistance.
Lean with the fury.
When you’re nearly bowed over
think broad trunk think sturdy bark.
Someday you won’t bend nearly so—
and to that scared little girl
the one I saw yesterday in the department store
hiding under the dress rack
enduring a mother’s torrent—
You won’t bend nearly so
after you’re grown.
~Christine Bodine, “late apology to the scared little girl in the department store” from Souvenirs of Myself
I know a psychiatrist colleague, soon to be 80 years old and still seeing patients, who recommends people should aim to be more like a willow than a chestnut tree. His long clinical practice has given him a perspective of who survives and who becomes irretrievably broken when the forces of life hit hard.
I know I am not one to freely yield to the wind or ice storm. More chestnut than willow or birch, I can tend toward inflexibility rather than suppleness.
This means I easily break when anger and fury abound in the world around me, rather than leaning and bending. What’s left is broken pieces awaiting salvage, feeding the flames of the brush pile with all the rest of the rigid and unyielding.
Yea, if I don’t bow like a willow, I fall broken upon the rock.
I will bow and be simple,
I will bow and be free,
I will bow and be humble,
Yea, bow like the willow tree.
I will bow, this is the token,
I will wear the easy yoke,
I will bow and will be broken,
Yea, I’ll fall upon the rock.
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