Tree Rings

Nature fascinates me. It always has, but as I get older, it seems to call me even more.

This summer I journeyed north to visit my son, get some hiking in, and enjoy the sights and sounds of God’s gifts.

On our hikes, I’m the one usually lagging behind. It’s not that I can’t keep up (unless we’re really climbingūüėČ), but my eyes are usually darting from one beautiful creation to another. Taking a photo here or ‘Hey, come see this!’ over there.

As I passed this tree, however, it didn’t excite me the way most things did. Instead, it was as if I was overwhelmed with a sense of mourning as my eyes scanned what was left of this majestic beast. The wood seemed solid, it did not appear diseased or decayed. Why had it fallen? What had taken it down? I could not tell, but what I did know, for sure, is that it once stood tall, planted, growing, living. But now, it had become a problem…blocking the path of hikers who were seeking a higher destination. Too large to be uprighted and replanted, too grand to be rolled out of the way. So, cut in half…never to be whole again.

I was mesmerized. I stood there. I started to count the rings. Some of them were very wide and distinct…obviously the good years. Lots of rain, sun, and healthy soil. It prospered. It grew. I envisioned the birds that had nested in its branches. I thought of the squirrels that had frolicked on its trunk. I imagined the shade it had provided a weary hiker. I faintly heard the woodpecker that had feasted on the insects hiding within its bark. It was life, abundant, and worked in perfect harmony.

I noticed the thin rings…some were almost too narrow to count. I paused. Life was hard then. It struggled, but it stood tall. It stayed strong. On the outside, life went on. But on the inside, it had been scarred. What had caused the hardship? Was it lack of rain? Probably. One need not being met, and it struggled. It stood tall, it didn’t let on, it blended in, but it struggled.

I counted on. It had endured. It had weathered many a storm. The rings told a silent story. Almost a century it had risen.

I thought of the many young this tree had bore…some were probably rooted nearby. Others may have been carried away and established elsewhere. They were independent. Life had moved on.

And as I pondered what was left of this felled giant, I glanced around. Although it’s first life was over, it was not the end. Life was truly beginning for a host of others…fungi, bacteria, beetles, worms.

It was still serving a purpose. It was still needed. It carried on. It is now a spot for a weary hiker to sit. It provides shelter for a burrowing chipmunk. Its pulp will be the needed nourishment for those that scavenge the forest floor. It will give back to the ground from which it took. Its legacy lives on.

The parallels to human life are obvious. Life starts grand. We have years where we grow and thrive. We have periods of struggle. But we carry on. We may be cut short by disease, accident, or felled by another circumstance or challenge. But we have served a purpose. We have planted seeds. We will leave memories. Our legacy will live on.

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Brands

When I was a child, I learned the word ‘brand’. ¬†It was simple. ¬†It had one syllable. ¬†I saw it on the side of the milk truck…Borden’s. ¬†I saw it on the flour bag…Gold Medal. ¬†I saw it on the gelatin…but never thought of it as gelatin…it was JELLO!! ¬†I saw it, and it made sense.

As I got a little older, I learned that some also put their ‘brands’ on their livestock…especially cattle. ¬†I saw it on the old westerns….branding irons in the fire, cattle waiting to get their mark. ¬†I learned that ranchers branded so they could identify which cattle were theirs. ¬†I saw it, and it made sense.

But, oh, how its meaning has changed!!

Today, it is people who are identifying their brand. ¬†Your name is not enough. ¬†Being nice is not enough. ¬†Doing your job is not enough. ¬†You now have to market yourself and sell yourself using your ‘brand’!

Wikipedia defines personal branding as ‘the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.’ ¬†A prescribed image or impression in the mind of others??? ¬†It’s an ongoing process???

We didn’t buy Borden’s milk because ‘it tasted good’…we bought it because that was the name on the milk truck that came down our street…and the commercial stated…’If it’s Borden, it’s GOT to be good!’ ¬†Jello WAS gelatin. ¬†KLEENEX was facial tissue. ¬†It was as simple as…are you a Ford or Chevy? ¬†You were branded by your religion, your political affiliation, the side of town you lived on. ¬†Branding…it was certainly a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others, but to brand yourself???

As I explored that process with him, I thought of the few times I had been asked to do something a little similar on our social media platforms…describe yourself, tell us something about you…personal branding! ¬†Many times I have left this blank. ¬†Establishing an image of myself for others was out of my comfort zone. ¬†People either accepted me for who I was or didn’t…or was it really that simple? ¬†Reflecting back, I recognize now I was already branded by my family, the people I associated with, the way I talked to others, the way I dressed…I carried with me an image or impression.

When I looked into the history of Borden’s branding, I discovered they have been around since 1858 and their original ‘branding’, other than the family name, was “for purity, durability and economy, is hitherto unequaled in the annals of the milk trade.” ¬†This was how they wanted to be known…they were pure, durable, unequal.

But to put it in words…something about myself…that is still uncomfortable for me. ¬†I am not a product. ¬†I am not owned. ¬†I don’t need to be ‘bought’, or do I? ¬†As I reflect on this whole concept, I still struggle because a ‘brand’, to me, has always been a permanent mark. ¬†Not an ongoing process…but a label…and that is how you were known….family, religion, political party, extra-curricular choice, school you went to…labeled!

In order to shift my mindset of this one syllable word, I now take the time to read the brands of others. ¬†The About Me’s. ¬†Their Mission Statement. ¬†Their Objectives and Purposes. ¬†They make me smile, they give me a window into their soul. ¬† They give me their brand. ¬† I give them mine. ¬†It is ongoing, because we change, life changes, and the world changes. ¬†We are not a name, or a religion, or the make of an automobile…we are more than that. ¬†It is that simple!

 

My Blooms of Summer

I simply love flowers.

Unique.  Bold.  Brilliant.

Each of their own design.¬† Some are big, some are bright, some prefer to stay out of the limelight!¬† Not all have much of a smell…which was a surprise to me!!¬† But their aroma is not what I see.

Each has a center that commands attention.¬† Most times if is just a bee…honey and bumble we frequently see.¬† But at other times it brings in the players–hummingbirds, butterflies, moths with designs just as competitive.¬† They all live harmonious and take only what they need.

Sculpted by our magnificent creator.

Their rich colors a rainbow all their own.

I simply love flowers.

 

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Transitioning to Summer Break

I’ve not always had the profession of a teacher.¬† For many years, I worked in the private and public sector.¬† ¬†This meant going to work M-F, 8 hour days, weekends off, but year round.¬† ¬†So when I started teaching, having my ‘summers off’ was going to be something new.¬† Something I could enjoy.¬† Something that meant I had about 8-10 glorious weeks to myself!!¬† Looking back, I couldn’t wait to take sleep in, take long walks or bike rides, read book after book of my choice, stay up late watching movies, running around with the kids, and keeping a clean and tidy house with laundry done during the week!!!¬† Saturday mornings were to be family breakfast and “What do we want to do today?”!!!¬† ¬†I was going to fill my day with what I wanted to do…it was going to be some major me time!!

My reality, however, has been quite different.¬† I quickly discovered that I wasn’t programmed for a life of¬† ‘having nothing to do’.¬† ¬†My husband says I have 2 settings…asleep and full throttle.¬† I have to agree.¬† That is who I am, and I now see I come from a long line of others just like me.

I learned it took me several days to break from the habit of getting up early.¬† My internal alarm clock would pop my eyes open by 4:30.¬† But truth be told, I did like quiet mornings.¬† It gave me some time to reflect, think, and pray…uninterrupted.¬† I now can sleep until 6:30!¬† I also struggled with the fact that I no longer had something I was having to do each day.¬† I was in control of my own schedule.¬† But little did I realize how quickly that would fill up with ‘things’ I had put off until summer…and then where was my time????

My school day was structured….we had something scheduled all day long.¬† My prior work life was structured.¬† ¬†Summers were not, and that was hard for me.¬† I learned to make lists and prioritize.¬† I learned to front load the have-to-do’s, and then I could make time for the want-to-do’s!

It has been a work in progress.¬† I still do school work during the summer…it is something I enjoy.¬† I enjoy learning.¬† I enjoy growing.¬† I have time to think and take in new ideas.¬† But I have so many ‘want-to-do’s’ to experience, create, explore.

Today is day 14 of my ‘summer break’.¬† Today, is finally a day scheduled for me!!¬† Now to decide what I will do first!