Man's Best Friend

My mother once asked me why I don't come to church with her. It took me a while to get past my pre-ordained notions of contradiction and corruption within the Catholic Church, but once I did, I realized that for me, church is The Great Outdoors. It is the place I go when I am struggling, when I am joyous, when I want to make sense of life. It makes me feel whole, it pushes me to appreciate the bigger picture and it reaches down to the roots of my humility to present me with a sense of grace. Isn't that what any site of worship is supposed to be about? About community, communalism and a sense of peace? If so, then any one of us can take a walk outside, look up at the sky and bow down in prayer.

Trees are fascinating creatures. I have spent a lot of time sitting among them, lazing in their branches or leaned up against their roots. I find great comfort in the arms of trees, as friends, mentors and partners in this struggle of life. I grew up with a forest in my backyard, and later on in life spent years dawdling in parks through my profession. I can not imagine a life without the blessed oxygen that trees and green spaces provide. Yes, they help us breathe as a planet. But they also have the ability to teach us a great many things if we listen with an open heart.
From my first climb, I learned about perseverance and focus. Sitting in a grove of pines taught me about the importance of boundaries. Cutting down a treacherous vine that was killing my favorite tree, I was given a lesson in survival.
When I stand next to a tree, I recognize an elder. Something that is infinitely older and wiser than myself. A creature that understands adaptability and stillness as an effective mode of preservation. It has taken enlightened individuals years of meditation to understand these simple modes of being.

And yet, something about a tree just knows. Innately, the way we probably would if we allowed ourselves the simple task of rooting down in the earth while at the same time, reaching for the sky.
All pics taken at Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy, Sri Lanka

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