Community//

To do the big things, you’ve got to do the little things.

Giving voice to what we really want saves us time, confusion and coffee.


I saw this luminous old tree laying on her side, uprooted along the path in the beloved, urban forest refuge of the Wissahickon. She was massive. I climbed, yes climbed, up her root base and sat, taking in the expanse of her reach– all the way from the top of the trail, down, down the hill mere inches from the water below.
 
It was one of those fall mornings, that slow you down because most of the leaves have fallen and that splash of beauty is ending, and you know it, so you notice. She was so large. So tall. And done. She was done.
 
As I climbed down, I noticed that embedded in her roots, intertwined were rocks, rocks that I could not have lifted on my own.
 
I took out my camera, but no matter how I aimed it – I couldn’t capture the full image. It was a feeling. It was a moment.
 
I thought about the done-ness of her, but then I wondered if that was as true in the Natural world. Meaning the done-ness of the manmade world feels like death, and the death of the natural world feels at least more of a transformation. She would decompose and feed the next growth, and she would be climbed on and noticed in her absence, not skirted out of sight. My perspective started to shift, at how her strength literally moved the Earth. The rocks. They were altered.
 
I had intended to sit and write this story to you today, on my coffee shop day, and impart great wisdom that the tree had shared with me. But when I went to order my habitual writing coffee, I hesitated. Split between the perception of tea and breaking my rule of one cup of coffee a day and ordering what I wanted: a coffee. I engaged in a chat with the barista.
 
Her first two chai recommendations, didn’t land with me.
 
So I asked, “Hmm are you a coffee drinker or a tea drinker? Because we may have different flavor tastes.”
 
Now, the above line may read stilted, because it was when it came out of my mouth. I was trying out a new skill set: slowing down and staying focused. See, I am a people person and when people are excited about something, I like to try new things and share in their excitement; however, today was about focusing and getting client work done in the two hours that I had childcare. And one thing I noticed about maximizing on my efficiency is to create a bit of a routine, have a list, and drop down to it, with a coffee.
 
“I like flavored, iced drinks,” she answered.
 
I didn’t.
 
She offered a dirty, turmeric chai.
 
I said sure.
 
Then we talked for 10 minutes about her job as a dog trainer. I started to feel antsy, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I listened until another customer, with two lhasa apsos came in and took up my place of listening to her story. A story, that I was interested in, but there was that deadline. And I had been keeping my deadlines, and they were creating space for long walks with my dog and reading novels: in short, the discipline was really beginning to work.
 
I settled down to write my newsletter – captured by the insight of the tree that gave and gave, and it didn’t matter, because She was toppled by a storm, anyway.
 
I took my first ceremonial sip of my drink. That, “ah-I-am-alone-and-inspired” sip.
 
I hated it. I mean, truly despised whatever swill was in that cup.
 
The barista, smiling, calls over: “You like it?”
 
“I do!” I smile.
 
Don’t worry, I hear myself.
I flash to a few awkward conversations professionally and personally in my life that need hashing out and I think: How am I going to write this newsletter, lead this conversation, parent my child, when I cannot even tell the barista that I do not like the drink that I paid for. My angst is growing disproportionately to the actual event and now I don’t want to do anything.
 
I don’t want to write about a tree.
 
I don’t want to plan an online community class.
 
I —
 
I sit and think about what is the lesson. Okay, what is the lesson, Katie?
 
It’s not that hard. 
 
I drink more of the drink.
 
I scroll the Internet.
 
I look at the clock: I only have an hour and forty minutes.
 
She is talking to another customer about her difficult canine assessment and how her supervisor is not listening to her. I walk up, drink in hand, embodying somewhere between my six and eight year old self and say: “I’m sorry. I do not like this drink, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Can I buy a drip coffee?’
 
“Hurt my feelings? You can’t hurt my feelings. Some people don’t like the turmeric with —-“ and she heads behind the counter. The other customer quietly slips out the door. She enthusiastically fills my cup, tells me it is on her, and I sit back at my computer.
 
I want to write again.
 
I feel a little more spacious and I think about how ludicrously enlightening this morning was. I know how ludicrously minute the disliking of a drink is, yet there I sat ludicrously guilty for liking what I liked and wanting what I wanted. Sometimes the big things are the little things.
 
If we cannot give voice to the little truths, how can we stand for the big ones?
 
I thought about that tree, and typed and typed and typed:
 
“She gave and gave and it didn’t matter about anyone else; she did it because she could.” 
 
“She gave and gave, and it didn’t matter who saw.” 
 
“She gave and gave, and it didn’t matter who knew.” 
 
“She gave and gave, and it didn’t matter what happened next.” 
 
“She gave and gave because she could.”
 
The nuances of our life can change everything.
 
The trees know this.
 
2020 is coming.  So what. Let’s live our lives because that is what they are here for and do our best to enjoy every last drop.
 
Thanks for reading + if you have another ending for the tree’s sentence – I’d love to hear it.
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