From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Advice from a Tree

Nature and revelation are like God’s books; each may have mysteries, but in each there are plain practical lessons for everyday duty.

Tryon Edwards

There are two things I remember vividly on the way to the hospital—my pounding heart and the calm, guiding fullness of the silvery moon at midnight. Here, now, WOW, it was really happening! As we pulled up to the entrance, I don’t know how my rubbery legs got us into the elevator. Our daughter was so anxious to greet the world, she nearly arrived between the second and third floors! She was born so quickly the word “push” never entered anyone’s mind.

Then my heart was pounding for different reasons. My eyes fixed on this beautiful baby as I drank in the newness, the preciousness, the raw love. Early the next morning the nurse smiled and asked me if I would like to give Laurel her first bath.

“Would I!” I gleamed. Such tiny little feet and hands, beautiful round, red cheeks . . . yes, yes, yes! One of the many firsts I would enjoy. The sound of the water, the sponge, the gentle instructions from the nurse are as vivid today as they were then. Once she was bathed and wrapped, I held my baby girl high above my head. The light that guided us on the way to the hospital gave way to her first fiery sunrise. We drank it in together, holding each other close.

Ever since that night, the beauty of nature has gifted our connection. Early along the journey of fathering, I heard some “mother’s wisdom” that if you take a baby outside and show it the moon, it will quit crying. Those nights when she cried, I took her out onto the front porch, held her up facing the moon and let her soak up the calm night. Soon she calmed down, snuggled in and fell asleep in my arms. The crisp chill in the autumn air as the cottonwood leaves swayed in the bright moonlight—those nights were my favorite. I celebrated how nature bonded us in this unique way.

I loved being a father. I cherished seeing the world anew. As my daughter and I grew together, my relationship with my wife grew apart. The healthiest thing for everyone was to let go and let love find a new way. The unknowns of the court system wore on me as I searched deep to keep the hope, love and joy of involved parenting alive. I tried my best to keep a positive attitude, but some days the river of grief and fear ran deep.

One particularly difficult day, I agonized about my three-year-old daughter and the strong winds of uncertainty. Why me? Why this? How can I remain involved and be the father I want to be? I just had to get outside to breathe and somehow find a way back to my center, to the peace and clarity of my soul. I managed to open the front door, and, with tears in my eyes, I began to move along the sidewalk, shuffling one foot in front of the other without a clue where I was going. Halfway down the block, exhausted, I leaned against a huge cottonwood tree; the deep ridges of the bark supported me and held me close. I said, “I need your help! Can you help me? I need some advice.”

I felt the tree reach out to me, wrap me in its branches to comfort me as I leaned against its steady trunk. This old and wise cottonwood seemed to speak to me with steadfast wisdom.

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your Roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of your own true nature
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go like leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, Fresh Air, Light
Be Content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of Water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your Roots!
Enjoy the View!

I walked home feeling hopeful, renewed and loved.

Over the years I’ve walked by that old cottonwood friend many times as it reaches to the sky. I’ve always stopped, breathed in its fresh air and given it words of thanks for teaching me that it’s the growth and change that make us strong; it’s the gratitude that makes us tall.

Nearly a decade later, as my teenage daughter and I walked together, the moonlight reflected on the waxy leaves of an old, large tree. Laurel said with an excited voice and big smile, “Look at that tree, Dad. Isn’t it amazing?”

Tears came to my eyes. “It sure is,” I said. “It sure is.”

Ilan Shamir

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