The way of the plum tree
The white blossoms that gilded the branches of the plum tree in the garden are gone. Their petals have withered or flown away with the May wind, and now the fruit can begin its slow process of emergence. At the end of February this year, when I left for long journeys full of plans and objectives, those branches were bare. Each time I returned from travels it had transformed itself, and now I watch it continuing on its slow journey with no end until I leave for somewhere else again.
The journeys I have been on have been dramatic, full of discoveries, information and meetings with new faces, new hearts. They have also been a walk into the past - my own past and the complicated past of my family. So much was unexpected. There were ups and downs, fear and peace, joy and grief. As time went by, I began to settle into this process and let it carry me, rather than be too stuck in a plan to squeeze out every last fact. There is much learning that can happen through quiet observation.
Without doubt, the experiences that struck me the most are the encounters with natural worlds whose beauty is unfathomable. As I stood watching the Paraguay River flowing from the brutal and striking water falls at Iguazu, it struck me that all of my struggling comes from overthinking and contriving. As the river under me flowed, steadily and unstoppably, I realized that the river does not ask itself whether or not it should flow, and whether that is right or wrong. The flow of a river simply is, and there is great peace in it.
In the United States I walked around a beautiful lake in Massachusetts for an hour a day. The water was still as a mirror and reflected the trees, which couldn't help but peer into it to admire their new foliage. Occasionally rowers interrupted the stillness of the water, but that was alright. Once they were gone, it would return to stillness.
In Svalbard, which is only 1316 km or 818 miles from the North Pole, the hard white snow rushed at my face through the Arctic Valley between mountains with flat tops scolded by the wind for daring to show peaks. As I looked straight into this, I didn't feel any sense of the need to do anything except what I was already doing. It wasn't a moment of needing to do something, rather a moment of being. Neither the wind, nor the snow, nor the flat mountains were right or wrong. They just were.
After this long journey I have returned to the plum tree and the quiet under the canopy formed by its branches. The words flow away with the river, blur in the ripples of the lake, and blow away through the valley with the wind and the snow. Their fading allows something greater to emerge, which can never be voiced except perhaps as the way of the plum tree.