How People Became Trees


by Junie Nguyen

The other day, my 4-year-old niece noted, rather out of the blue, that trees just stand there when they’re in your way. “They just won’t listen!” she said.

Of course my sister and I agreed that this was true. Haven’t you found it to be so? We all had a conversation then about how the tree is just being a tree. It’s doing it’s best at what it does and really it’s not doing anything right or wrong. It’s just being a tree. We all came to a consensus that trees are pretty great after all, despite they’re stubbornness of being. None of us, least of all my niece, would want them to be anything else, even if they do sometimes get in your way while you’re walking.

Little by little the conversation branched out beyond the world of trees to the world of people. Could it be that people, when doing something you don’t like, are just being people much like the tree that is just being a tree? Maybe they’re just doing their best. Maybe they’re not doing anything right or wrong really, despite how it might feel or look to us. After all, can’t we agree that every–every–person is really pretty great? Would you really want someone to not be himself, even though who he is is sometimes an inconvenience to you?

A few hours later, while we found ourselves driving in the insanity of L.A. traffic, a driver cut through a few neighboring lanes and into ours requiring my sister to slam on the brakes. She and I, fuming, had to stop ourselves from namecalling and instead I shrugged and said, “Eh, he was really being a tree there.” Just doing the best he can…doing what he does…being who he is.

Soon, we were all quipping things like, “Well, she is just being a tree I guess,” “We’re all just trees after all,” and sometimes the less enlightened, “Arg, what a tree.”

It’s not perfect perhaps, but there is a measure of forgiveness in our new metaphor that makes quite a bit of difference. And it has made freeway driving a whole lot easier.

I think I’ll keep trying to let people be trees.


Peace of Wild Things

Los Padres National Forest     Photo Credit: S Wave The sharing of this poem is dedicated to my grandmother, Maxine, who turns 93 today. This is one of her favorite poems an it always reminds me of how she has demonstrated to me how to “rest in the grace of the world.” She does this not only with words, but with her own actions. I’ve watched and learned much from her. The accompanying pictures are of her own little wild thing, her first great-grandchild, Charlotte. I’ve also included places I’ve recently traveled in California that I think she would love to see.

The Peace of Wild Things BY WENDELL BERRY

Topanga Dance 1  Photo Credit: S Wave

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drakeTopanga Dance 2 Photo Credit: S Wave

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Happy Birthday, Grandmother. I love you in the day and night. I love you in the happy and sad. I love you in the near or far. I love you in the nows, thens, and to comes. xoxo