A Forest of Rings

This post is for all of you who have suffered, strained, cried, been pushed, felt deep pain, and have kept walking, kept living, kept hoping and believing.

Last month I was in California visiting a friend. One of the first days that we were there we went to Muir Forest National Monument, otherwise known as The Redwoods. I live in a mountain town. At the base of a giant 14,000ft mountain range, I have to say, the views don’t get old. I love the mountains and I love seeing them when I drive to work. I love being able to go into them and hike and become awestruck over and over again. All that said, my personal favorite piece of geography is the forest.

I LOVE the smells of the forest, the feeling of damp dew in the air and on the moss, the sounds of life echoing off the absolutely giant tree trucks, the sun shining in through the canopy…it’s magical. I love that the forest has a balance of heat and cold to cool you off after hiking for a while. I love the wildlife and the dozens of different fauna you’ll see while walking. Suffice to say, I was absolutely awestruck for nearly the entire time that we were in Muir Woods.

While there, I saw this incredible tree trunk where they took a dissection of the tree and labeled different dates and places corresponding to each ring. Some rings were thinner (meaning a cooler season) and IMG_0428some were thicker than the rest (meaning a warmer season). There were rings that could tell a person that a great fire happened this year, or a season of plentiful precipitation. There are people who study climate and atmospheric conditions during different periods in history from the wood. They can learn about changes over time and predict certain things in our future using projections. In short, they could tell you a great many things about what that tree had been through over the years.

I think that as I was staring in disbelief at the many, many years that were represented on this tree trunk, I began to think about what each ring meant. At first I was like, “Really Eric, you’re having this metaphorical moment with tree rings right now? That’s pretty cliché.” But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t help but think about how our lives are very similar.

Now, we shed our “rings” so to speak. Every day we have new skin and new cells, which I am quite grateful for. Still, most humans on this earth have been through a good deal of heartache, pain, loss, warm seasons, and cold seasons. We’ve acquired “rings,” over time. We’ve walked through trials and come out the other side. Like scars left on a body, the trials tell a story. Like the rings in a tree, our sorrow, difficulty, and struggle write a narrative that speaks to one thing: Our perseverance. The “rings,” also tell of the warm seasons though. The good times we’ve had. The good memories that shape who we are. We are capable of enjoyment and love. We are not just forged with fire, but with sunlight…with warmth. Our lives speak to the grand story we’ve been living.

There was one commonality in all the trees around me; they were still standing, growing, making rings. And most importantly, the rings make the tree stronger. The rings fortify the tree against future hardship. Adversity will always come to us in this life, but it really is the “rings,” that make us stronger.  Just don’t forget to have some warm seasons too.