False Summit

Jenny the trauma therapist showed me and Shani the blackberry plants she was growing behind the envelope factory. I’m used to seeing old, overgrown blackberry bushes, but these plants were made up of four or five sturdy branches that reached out and arched architectural over the dirt. Jenny explained to us how the fruit can’t grown on the new branches, but has to grow on the branches from last year.

New growth comes from old branches.

Shani and I went mulberry picking, selecting the finest fruit from our favorite mulberry tree on the property. The ones that were ready to eat were easy to pluck from the trees outstretched branches. Sometimes I would grab one that was bursting with juice and not move my hand. A breeze would come by and remove the branch from the berry. I got into a rhythm, gently pulling the berries and thanking the tree for the gift of her fruit.

When fruit is ready to be picked, you have to give unrelenting attention, but you don’t have to work too hard. You don’t have to force it.

A few months ago my family and I went hiking at Pittock mansion. It was sunny and beautiful and I was having a miserable day. I wanted there to be thunder and lightening. I wanted to be an evil princess sitting in the mansion, throwing down lightning bolts at all the happy, snuggly, sunbathing people. But instead they just kept being happy. My misery felt powerful enough to stop them from snuggling and sunbathing but it wasn’t.

The way back up the Wildwood trail was steep. I was crying and trying to avoid talking to anyone who was hiking with me. My dad slowed his stride down to walk next to me, and he told me about the concept of the false summit. When you’re walking uphill, you think you’ve almost reached the top but it’s just your mind playing a trick. Just when you think you’ve arrived, you realize you there’s so much trek left for you. You never arrive, you can never stop, and maybe that’s exhausting but it also means that there is always more adventure. I thought in that moment that my dad was really wise.

Then we went back to the car and my dad said something about betting dollars to donuts Heather wouldn’t be there, and I stopped being enamored by his wisdom, because you can’t use the phrase “dollars to donuts” around a princess as evil and heartbroken and miserable as I was. It’s just not respectful to the fact that I can’t actually smite annoying, happy, snuggly people with my evil princess lightening bolts.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that growth takes time, and growth is a process, and growth requires us to tend to ourselves but not to force ourselves into things that we aren’t.


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