The large spotted gum tree in my little back yard sheds its bark each year and, after ten years of living with it, I finally learned a valuable life lesson from it.
Over those years I’ve admired this beautiful tree. It is a strong and majestic tree. An Australian native, Corymbia maculata is endemic to the eastern states of Australia. A previous owner planted it and I’m not confident that he knew how big that little sapling would grow. Or even whether he knew of its future community minded capacity. At about 30 metres tall it is probably not the best choice for this location however it is a home or resting place for a community of birds, insects, bees and marsupials. I do really enjoy it.
There are times when I’ve sat beneath it staring up at its crown mesmerised by the warm afternoon sunlight in its canopy. I’ve admired the soft patterned colourings of its trunk and branches. I’ve listened to the joyous cacophony of lorikeets chatting away as they feast on the nectar from the flowers. I’ve watched with delight when the tawny frogmouth owls perch in it. I’ve listened to the Pied Currawongs singing amongst its canopy.
I’ve sat and watched in amazement and wonder at its ability to withstand strong winds with its branches swaying and twisting beyond what I think it could cope with, and yet it holds onto its branches not letting go of any of them during this moment of adversity. In fact there are actually many little lessons that I could take from just those things. However the occurrence that taught me on this occasion was the shedding of its bark.
Apart from its strong stature, its bark is a large part of the tree’s beauty. It sheds its bark each year and its spotted appearance has soft hues of greys, pinks and creams. It sheds its bark at the same time each year. This is not a big issue. That is its natural cycle. It sheds in early summer in December. I’m usually not bothered by that, but I’m aware that sweeping up the bark from the paths is another job that needs to be done. So I do it, albeit with a little bit of resentment as another job that needs doing.
However, this year my tree taught me a valuable life lesson that I’ll now embrace and look forward to each year. You see it sheds its bark in December, at the end of our calendar year, not that it knows that. Now, the past year has been a particularly big one for me, filled with some amazing highs and some challenging lows of life experiences. As I spent time in my garden reflecting on this I sat observing the fallen bark on my paths and it hit me.
Here was the tree shedding all of its outer layer, all the good bark that protected it over the past year, as well as any that may have been damaged. And all of this was in preparation for its new year ahead. The tree just does the shedding processing naturally each year, knowing that it’s required for its survival, knowing that it’s healthy to shed the older layer. It’s at this point that I chuckle, thinking about us humans who scramble along continuously across the years thinking we’re great if we actually stop and reflect on our past year and do some planning for the year ahead, as opposed to doing it as our natural rhythm and cycle.
So I learned that at the end of each year I will do my own version of shedding so that I can prepare myself for the year ahead. I will acknowledge all that the past year was, the highs and lows and everything in between. I will then choose to let go of them and release them in order for me to move into the new year with a new refreshed clean layer prepared for the year ahead.
A short while after this nature-based life lesson I was sharing this epiphany with a good friend and he astutely and wisely added a deeper dimension to it. He suggested that as the year progresses I could write on the bark the happenings of the year, the joys, the struggles or the issues that I’ve experienced with the knowledge that at the end of the year they would be shed and drop off in a calm and quiet manner as the tree did its natural processes. A new year then begins … a fresh start.
Gee, all that just from a tree. Aren’t trees great!