Be Like a Tree

     The quiet of this northern winter is a time of year we often neglect when we think about the annual cycle of living things.
     We are conscious of birth and growth; we list the budding and flowering and fruiting that happens with plants through the warm months, and we register the falling of the leaves as a kind of death.  We  ignore the actions of trees as they enter a dormant stage that is not unlike the hibernation of some animals.
     If we think about winter trees at all, we think of them doing nothing. They are just standing there: not involved in the cycle of life, or maybe sleeping until the real work of Spring begins. Yet there are lessons to be learnt from the details of trees in winter.

     Trees begin to prepare for winter well ahead of the season. They release their leaves, no longer needed for photosynthesis, and let them insulate the ground against the coming cold.
     Everyone has an individual relationship with winter. I know people who cannot wait to head south to escape the Canadian weather. They move closer to the equator in search of longer days and a higher noontime sun. Some go for the entire season, and others for only a few weeks. I know other people who  anticipate the snow. Delighting in ever moment when they can be outdoors to ski and snow-shoe and toboggan and build snow-forts and make angels.
     I belong to the third group which falls in between. I live in Canada, and winter is an inevitability. I do not escape, and I also do not delight: I plod on.
     While some people are packing their motor-homes or purchasing new ski goggles, I get winter tyres installed on the car and find my box of winter clothes. Scarves and hats and mitts will stave off frostbite and exposure. Winter is never unexpected. Preparation is part of the annual cycle.
Be pliable and adapt
     The cells of a tree become more pliable before winter sets in. Water can then move from within the cells to the spaces between cells. Pressure changes caused by extreme temperatures cannot cause damage when the cells are dehydrated and supported from the outside.
     Weather is not predictable in any season just as much of human life is not predictable. No matter the time of year, we are all well-advised to be willing to change our ways of doing things. In winter we might adjust our alarms to allow time to shovel; we might change our travel routes, or relinquish the driving to professionals on buses or trains.
Become sweet
     In autumn, trees convert starches to sugar, creating a sweet environment which acts as a kind of antifreeze and lowers the freezing point inside living cells. The sugar-free water outside the cells can turn to ice without puncturing the pliable cell walls.
     For those who express anger with life, winter has no shortage of stimuli. Delays and cancellations and closures abound. There may be inconveniences lurking in every snow bank. Becoming sweet, or at least not being sour at the world, leads to a better experience. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that whatever the circumstance you are not alone. Shouting at another stranded passenger in a station or aeroport will not bring quicker transportation. Cultivate kindness and accept, with good grace, those aspects of the situation you cannot change.
Control your inner environment
     In the cells of trees there is a phase of suspended animation which ensures that no matter how cold the world outside the tree, the contents of the cell will not crystallize.
     There is more to our internal state than a decision to be sweet. When we are calm and centred we can respond to the demands of winter instead of reacting to them. Meditation may make it easier to connect to sensible problem-solving.
     Accepting what we cannot change will certainly avoid wasting energy on temper tantrums or negative exchanges with people in our lives.
     Trees use all of these techniques in order to keep themselves from the negative impacts of winter; I think I can do the same.

I have been preparing Numerology Charts since the 1980s, connecting people to the structure which underlies life, and then supporting them as they integrate the new information into their every day.
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