During the endless energy of my 20’s I ran at life hard and fast, spending myself whole-heartedly in many directions at once.
When I moved back to New Zealand from Sydney in 2009, burnt-out and broken-hearted, I spent a number of months working part-time on my parents’ dairy farm. After years of cerebral efforts and emotional and spiritual giving, doing physical labour and working outside was the perfect form of therapy.
The expanse of the sunset sky as I hosed down the yard after milking the cows somehow opened a space inside for me to breathe into. The frosty clarity of the stars on a winters night walk home from the shed poked pinpoints of vitality into my soul.
But it was the trees that really spoke to me.
Their seemingly static way of living aggravated me as first. I was used to moving fast and equating speed with productivity. By contrast, every season I would watch the trees undergo radical change in slow motion. They became fruitful and productive in their own sweet time – unstrained and unrushed.
They were not afraid to let go of summer’s growth when autumn came to claim it. They rested patiently in the long, quiet of winter when growth was invisible. And then without any fanfare, they suddenly burst into life when it was time to blossom again.
Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
~ Thomas Merton
While I worked, healed and learnt to slow down, nature taught me its humble and steady lesson – that there is a different way of being fruitful than the frenzied activity I was used to. The trees lived at a slower, more restful pace that still led to genuine, productive fruitfulness.
The stillness that comes from burn out, the openness that comes from a wounded heart, opened me up to perceive the beauty and the deep wisdom at work in the inner life of trees.
Connecting with nature became a spiritual practice – a new way of knowing and experiencing God.
I learnt to keep company with trees and plants, the way I keep company with good friends. And slowly, but surely, I became more like them.
I have noticed that my album has quite a few references to trees, which shows how much they have crept into my subconscious. Trees are characters in the stories that I tell in ‘Sunset Road’, ‘The Year The Birds Came Back‘ and ‘Not All the Leaves are Falling‘.
I am grateful for this transformation that occurred seven years ago. I’m grateful that nature has ceased to be a prop in the drama of life and has become instead one of my favourite characters.
I’m grateful for the secret life of trees.
Songwriter | Wordsmith | Sojourner