I was walking with Gibbs yesterday in a spot where we have walked before…. A neighborhood park with a trail around a lake. It’s a pretty spot, with lots of wild flowers surrounding the lake, goldfinches and cardinals flitting about, dragonflies searching for their next meal and a mix of shade and sun. There is nearly always a breeze there, making it pleasant on even the warmest of days, and a creek that Gibbs can jump in to cool down if he gets too hot, and lots of other doggy smells for him too.
Yesterday, we walked in the opposite direction from the way we normally go, and something new caught my eye. On one side of the lake there are a number of old oak trees creating a tunnel to walk through. We were wandering slowly when my eyes fell on the bark of these trees. Ruts had formed, up to three inches deep, and created an unusual pattern of light and dark. When I went closer I could see the life they supported, from ants nestling in the furrows to easy footholds for the squirrels; from water collected in the pockets to birds pecking at the bugs. And I imagined the growth that occurred for these furrows to appear, the decades of growth and regression, the expansion and contraction causing the folds and creases.
As I marveled at this, I was glad that these trees did not just shed when their skin grew too tight. The fact that they were able to split wide open and stretch and form new bark over and over again, yet hold on to all they had been before seemed to me a reflection of humans. Often, when we go through times of transformation we try to be like a butterfly emerging, leaving the chrysalis hanging, empty as a tomb. We are tempted to reject what came before as unnecessary to what the ‘new us’ is. But in reality, all that has come before in our lives is still there, folding and creased and, maybe even, scarred looking. We don’t shed the past, but rather incorporate it into the new. And beauty is formed!
As you continue to transform and grow, allow the ruts and folds and creases and scars to stay, showing the shadows of life, providing nourishment for others, giving some an easier foothold on their journey, creating still pools of water to reflect by. Don’t try to leave the past behind… It’s there, the good and bad, the light and the heavy. But crinkle and wrinkle and pleat together all you are, all you have been, and stand proud of where you are now. Split wide open, allow the new growth the room it needs, fold it into the old, and repeat, over and over, decade after decade. Allow the desire to eradicate the pain from past to go and wear it with pride, transformed into something good for all the world to see. For beauty has, indeed, formed!!