TREE WITH HANDSIt was one of those phone calls you never want to have end—from an old and cherished friend I haven’t seen in years. The conversation went straight to the heart of the matter and was bone-deep, honest, and nourishing. No superficial skating around losing precious time on matters shallow and of no consequence.

It was telling that as we talked, she was walking her dog, trudging through deep snow and biting cold morning air in Montana—while I sat inside my home in Washington, curled up on my couch where it was cozy and warm, still wearing my jammies, a mug of steaming hot coffee cupped in my hands. We had spent our formative years in the same rural community, but if we had to draw a picture of a landscape that depicted most accurately the intentions that shaped and informed each of our lives and gave us purpose, it would not look the same. We are kindred spirits, but we have different expressions.

She is a woman rooted to place and the natural world, intimate with the pulse and rhythms of the land and its creatures. She feels safe and protected in the midst of its wildness. Her intent is to live consciously where her soul can sing and fully reveal itself in her relationships, writing, and music. Her landscape is of the earth and it is wide and very deep, smelling richly of plants and dirt. It feeds her so she can feed others.

From my earliest memory, I have always felt cared for when I am caring for others. It is when I feel most in alignment with myself, and that feeds me. I’m someone with a perpetual first responder bag glued to my hip, ready to leap to the call, regardless of where that might take me. The image of my landscape resembles a strong, sturdy tree—and my intention to serve others is the juice, the life force that courses through the trunk’s marrow and keeps it strong. The manifestations of that intention are represented in the branches and leaves that grow and expand out from there, each expression different—the farmer, mother, wife, cook, nurse, midwife, hospice worker, grandmother—but not separate from the trunk, just as the clouds cannot be separated from the sky or the waves from the sea.  Staying true to one’s intentions is a life journey. It is not always easy and sometimes does not get everyone’s vote, but it makes for an authentic and amazing ride. As William Stafford wrote so beautifully:

The Way It Is

“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die, and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.”   



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