The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron, helping readers learn how to become a better writer. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. An Artist Date can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else. Today, hop the fence and wade through the grass to sit a while under leafy branches.
On a soggy August morning, I waded out to meet the tree.
I’ve passed the meadow on the way to my in-laws’ house time and time again. Fenced and surrounded by housing developments on three sides now, the field serves as a reminder of simpler times, and the tree, my mother-in-law tells me, is all that remains of an old farmstead.
On a gently rolled knoll rising up out of an expanse of long, waving grasses, that tree lifts her leafy arms as if holding up the sky. Each time I pass by her I feel the pull. Her unlikely presence gives my spirit pause—rest from the noise of her surroundings, and mine.
So on a steamy August morning as temperatures rose with the sun, I hopped the fence to meet her up close. My heart quickened at this minor trespass.
Trudging across barren landscape, a soft throw tucked under my arm, I felt as conspicuous as that singular tree. By the time I reached her craggy trunk my feet were soaked by dewy grasses, my legs covered in seeds and other hangers-on. But, never mind, I was meeting an old friend.
When I had whittled away the distance between us, I touched her trunk, pressing my hand against her rugged skin, wondering at its roughness. I spread my throw in a clearing beneath her branches and leaned back to listen. As I peered up through the years gathered in her arms, I remembered these lines from Rumi:
Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.
I thought of how trees have been giving to men and women since the beginning of time. It is said that Eve picked knowledge from a branch and the world was forever changed. Some legends note that after Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he sat under a Banyan tree, meditating on what he had seen. The Banyan tree—which folklore tells has roots that never stop growing—is often seen as a symbol of immortality. Some would pray to trees as gods; others see them simply as messengers of the gods.
As I looked up at the sky through twig and leaf, I wondered if the gifts of the tree somehow relate to the recipient. Wisdom for a possession-soaked world. Immortality to the prophet. Answers to questions for those who seek. So I tried to be modest—a thing ripened until it is real. I became small—a maple seed; a root tendril burrowing in the dark.
And my tree gave me this: shade to refresh, a song in the hushing of the leaves, scent of leaf mingled with dew, a place to slow and rest a while.