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  • Writer's pictureFran Braga Meininger

The Determined Oak and Me

This tree came down during a rainstorm several years ago. I stood in a moment of silence when I found it lying over on its side with only a fraction of its roots still connected to the earth, sad for its demise. I was sure it would slowly whither, become brittle and lifeless the next summer and decay over time.

It did not. To my surprise, every time I pass by, I’ve found it just as vibrant and alive as the first day it lost its footing and toppled over.

This morning, as I paused to take inventory of how it was doing, I realized how much we have in common, this determined oak and me.

Although it’s on its side now, instead of standing strong and tall, facing head on the elements and challenges of being an aging oak, even though there is only a small number of roots available to carry moisture and nutrients to its trunk, branches and leaves, it has adapted to its current circumstance and thrived.

It didn’t get caught up in frustration, or the sorrow of being destined to life at a horizontal orientation rather than standing proud, spreading its boughs wide for all to admire. It didn’t give up, perhaps ashamed to be less of what it once was. It channeled its life force through the remaining pathways and went on.

I stood for a time, contemplating this life lesson sprawled out in front of me. I marveled at how it served as a living, visual representation of what I had been thinking for the past several weeks.

My birthday was approaching, which always puts me in a contemplative mood to ponder such things as aging, unexpected change and the anticipation of what comes next. I’ll be sixty eight this year, an age I still think of as not old. That’s the best way I can tag it. Sixty eight is certainly not young, but it’s not old either. It is, however, different.

Things are happening lately, within my body and my mind, as though the essence of me it shifting. My outlook has become colored by each and every change of circumstance, most beyond my control, and my determination has become stronger, while softening. There is now a blending of patience and acceptance within my stalwart promise to be as well and as fulfilled as I can be.

Like the oak, I am finding ways to accommodate change as time erodes my physical condition, requiring me to depend on different ways of meeting my needs to stay strong and vibrant.

Moving through everyday life takes more consideration and accommodation than I ever expected when I could just muscle through on sheer will. I didn’t anticipate such dramatic change so soon and it’s taken time for me to surrender the resentment of that undeniable reality. I’ve had to settle into a different approach that encompasses curiosity, ingenuity and a willingness to discover a new way to be as who I am now - not in comparison to who I was then, but as a continually developing individual, mastering a different method of carrying on.

I now accept that there is no going back to regain what I once possessed, only living on in a familiar but ever changing body, with a fresh vision for my future that can only be envision from the current vantage point. What I projected as my future isn’t necessarily possible, but what I can be, if I embrace it, is just as life affirming and satisfying.

So, I will visit my friend, the determined oak, often this coming year to remind myself that everything is changing all the time and it is up to me to dig my roots deep into the best of what remains.

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