Directly behind the home of my youth stands a large and mighty live oak tree. From my recollection, its trunk is roughly twenty-six feet in circumference. As a child, I would play among the understanding of this great tree’s rising and diving root structure. I would feel safeguarded by the overarching nurture of its outreaching branches. Many hours I spent imagining these curvaceous and snaking roots to be large, rolling hills or mountains sweeping to canyons and valleys upon which my little trucks and cars would devise meandering paths and highways. The strength of the tree’s giant, outstretched arms would provide sturdy and secure bridges on which to climb. Some days, I dizzily whirled in circles from a tightly wound rope secured on one end to a hefty branch and on the other to an old tire forming the swing. That tire was often deliberately thrust into a spin by one of my brothers or friends, inducing visionary wonders of a blurred world as well as a sickened tummy.
I was cultivated in knowledge and wisdom under the care and keeping of that great tree and many others like it. Even now, I stand with continuing gratitude, respect, and awe of the live oak’s monumental integrity and steadfastness. Today, when I walk among these giants, I marvel at the miracle of just how they knew what to do and when to do it, to become so beautiful, majestic, inspiring, trusting, accepting, appreciative, faithful, forgiving, glorious, and grand.
The Acorn Seedling
The live oak tree’s life begins as the acorn. Within that little ovoid nut, capped with crowning protection, is held all the potential and pent-up majesty of becoming an epic and eternal tree. This newly developing embryo, gifted with all the essential characteristics and energies from its flowering mother (cotyledons) as well as the pollinating power of its father, is empowered to begin a process of significant growth and development.
Providentially escaping the surrounding dangers and conditions of being snatched and consumed by a hungry deer, curiously collecting squirrel, or foraging magpie, this tiny, swollen seedling is gently laid to rest in a fertile and accepting, earthen bed. Assuredly under the watch-care of its parent and not far-flung from the place of its birth, this little seed, in its first official act of independence, uses its agency and chooses to send down a soul-searching root to anchor and secure itself to a confident foundation.
Once firmly grounded and settled into establishment, the little seed obtains the courage to send forth a bold bud of inquiry. It manifests an open desire to communicate and interact with its unfolding environment, even exhibiting the faith to face an unfamiliar and dark atmosphere that waits and hovers with a lingering air of uncertainty and doubt. With this burgeoning action, the seed decidedly becomes a sprout.
Stalwartly now and armed with the accountability of fulfilling its charge, this trust of new responsibility induces a reach upward toward the tutelage and sustenance of the sun. This welcoming energy dauntlessly encourages the sprout to take its first, vulnerable, toddling stretches. Performing with great practice and ground-breaking determination, the sprout successfully breaches the interminable presence of a world-weighted resistance. With triumph, suddenly it springs forth, awakening to opportunity.
Ironically, as the sprout expends the energy to grow upward, the root of its original action also strengthens and grows, locking in new depths of nourishment. Almost unconsciously in being a sprout, the sprout has become a plantlet.
In its youth, the plantlet awkwardly struggles to fit in, as evidenced by its meandering growth. There are days of mounting exactness, unfurling a new leaf of learning in perfect directive and direction. And then there are days interlaced with searching, leaning undecidedly one way or another, readily influenced by a pervasive and encroaching environment. Even a deer may purposefully intrude and insert his nibbling negativity. Within the plantlet’s tender inexperience is found an opportunity for another to take advantage of, to bully, to abuse, and to self-aggrandize. So, a little bite is taken here and a crushing step there, leaving the little plantlet in confusion, wariness, and likely mistrust. But, despite the misunderstanding, the misfortune, and the mistreatment, the plantlet continues to be and, in being, soon finds it has become a sturdy sapling.
The sapling soars to the heyday heights of living. Days are long and full of adventure as the sapling continues to grow even into the night. A newly discovered level of individuality, coupled with the agency to use that independence in unsupervised sovereignty, offers something liberating and therapeutic. Sporadic jaunts of determination, labor, and exertion are intertwined with periodic spells of easing moderation, merry-making, and rest. Yet, the reach continues upward from the societal pressures to become something greater. And so, the sapling climbs with continual ventures and off-shoots of branching and leafing. Fortunately, the sapling escapes the axe; but, it does not always escape the scars of neighboring contenders competing for the sunlight of status, Still, through being a sapling, the innovative adolescent emerges as a young tree.
The Young Tree
Having reached stardom status, or at the very least simple success, the young tree stands proudly. Self-aware and carefully groomed in attractiveness, the fully untried tree now flirts in advertisement through flowering. When having successfully secured a courtship, engagement and conjugal connection, it cross-pollinates in fruitfulness. The young tree stands even more proudly as its parental glory grows in increase and proliferation. Suddenly mounting more attentive, protective, and curiously more apprehensive, the tree feels encumbered by the recognition of its new weight of responsibility. So, it bulks up its efforts, expands its outstretching breadth, and deepens its roots in order to withstand the heaviness of its burdensome bond. And in so being a young tree, the young tree becomes a tree indeed.
The Mature Tree
The prosperous tree perceives itself to be in the throes of living. The pace of its growth quickens, but it also stands more consistent and confident. Having fully grounded itself with the success of stability, it feels more comfortable living under the scrutiny of others. The grown tree grows less self-absorbed. Its social dexterity is largely concentrated on relationships of community and learning to live artfully with others. Its branches extend to the inclusion and acceptance of additional trees, often intertwining with comradery and kinship. It even willingly hosts the friendship of a fern or provides a guestroom for moss to flaccidly move into its habitation. It now delights in the visit of the deer or the squirrel to eat from its yield or the bird to sing from its branches. In sharing, the tree propagates its influence and finds joy in the effects of its encouragement. The tree cultivates more empathy and understanding, remembering the toils of its youth and of all youthfulness. It likewise grows in gratitude for its ability to provide shade, refuge, and fortification. It becomes more willing to sacrifice itself in service. So, in being a veritable living oak tree, the tree becomes worthy to take its place and stand tall among the ancients.
The Ancient Icon
Fully fortified by the assessment of its ability and the experience of its living, the aging tree humbly settles into more security. It no longer feels the necessity to outmaneuver or prove itself in prominence. It grows content in just being, savoring each day with appreciation and gratitude. Its contentedness is to share its wisdom, to relieve the suffering of its posterity, and to provide an example of great strength in demonstrating its endurance and stalwartness. The aged tree simply stands. It stands reasonable, resolute, and resolved, asking nothing but remembrance in return. And in its perpetual standing, the great and mighty oak grows eternal.
In all its being, it has become.
“Today, I Am Enough.”
I fear that in our effort to become, we often forget and fail to be. I have a dear friend who imparted this great wisdom: “Today, I am enough.” I love that. If we all would extend our energies today toward being what we need to be now, we would and will become what we desire tomorrow. But we will only become proportionate or equal to our action of being, not wishfully wanting or even immortalized or preserved in what we have been in the past. Therefore if we fail to continue to be, have we really become? The giant live oak never fails to remember that in its stature it must continue to live to the full potential of the acorn, the sprout, the plantlet, the sapling, the young tree, the mature tree, and the ancient icon. In remembering and continuing to be, we become. If we live each day to the full virtue of its assets, then today, we are enough.
Many desire to become successful, happy, and ultimately at peace with ourselves and others. But are we being successful now? Are we currently working with ingenuity, education, and great effort equal to the expansions and gains of tomorrow? Are we happy now? Do we invest in principles of love, forgiveness, patience, and humility in our relationships today? Or, are we waiting until we become happy to implement these actions in the future? Are we living peacefully now? Do we presently promote peace through living peaceably with others? Or, do we wait with great fear, angst, and anxiety to become peaceful? In our postponing, will the peace ever come or become?
Conversely, do we desire not to become bitter and angry yet linger living with an air of acrimony and ill will? Do we feign shun becoming a falsifier but now relish in the sensation of gossip and in bearing false witness? If we continue to be locked in behavior contrary to our desire to become, will we not remain there?
Living Is Being
Oh, how I wish we would in language, diction, and expression refer to the stirring word “live” as referenced by the “live oak tree” (not with a long I, but a short one). For this great tree’s example is in living. Living is being. Thus, the effort and energy, even the mission statement of our “Be the Beautiful Life” website is to promote beauty in living by being here and now.
It is only in living and being that we will ever become.
Even among the prominent polemics and controversies of our day, we desire to see and help others to see with great vision the pronounced good and splendor of the world around us. We wish to celebrate today the individual and each individual’s capacity, potential, and power to influence and affect the lives of others in positive and meaningful ways. We wish to taste and savor now our food with greater gratitude; to presently design to delight; and, to create not solely to impress, but to appreciate.
Like the mighty oak with branches which extend figuratively and interlock influentially with those of its neighbors, we likewise desire to interconnect and interweave a canopy of consideration for one another, to find nurture and encouragement in, even an enthusiasm of caring and compassion that explores to enrich, captures to remember, cultivates to encourage, and shares to supply.
In short, we desire to be. We desire in being to become.
We invite you to share with us how your present being is helping you to become.
Remember the acorn.
R. Shannon Mock
co-founder of Be the Beautiful Life
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