I am married to a man who pays attention to trees. Me, I\’m a forest gazer. I stand on a mountain and take in acres of green, stretching all the way to the sea.
In reality, he can barely tell a weeping willow from a sugar maple, and my most interesting forest experience was when I got lost in the woods behind my house. What I\’m saying is that my spouse (who can\’t see the forest for the trees) focuses on the concerns of the moment, whereas I (who can\’t see the trees for the forest) am forever taking the larger view.
Can you guess which of us is the more serene, contented, and at peace?
Some people are born with a Zen-like instinct for paying attention to the here and now. If I ever had this instinct, it was taken away by the evil fairies at my christening. Since childhood I have embodied that saying of Thich Nhat Hanh\’s: \”I think; therefore, I am not here.\”
Where am I? I\’m on the mountain, staring at the forest, scrutinizing the horizon for threatening hordes, peering among those distracting trees for signs of lions, tigers, and bears. This does not fill me with feelings of security or contentment. Although the view is occasionally neutral, most often it inspires dread: there is too much to do; where do I even start? What if there\’s a flood, a fire, a war?
Tired of contemplating forests and paying for it with endless hours of unnecessary worry, I\’m trying to break the habit.
As if in answer to my need, the universe, via Google, sent me this from Sir William Osler (1849-1919), revered physician and all around good guy: \”Think not of the amount to be accomplished, the difficulties to be overcome, or the end to be attained, but set earnestly at the little task at your elbow, letting that be sufficient for the day.\”
The little task at my elbow! Who could resist? I don\’t need to cope with a forest stretching across continents, but with a single tree, perhaps a seedling, in need of water and light. Even I can manage that! And in the process, I can take in Sister Tree in all her uniqueness–the feel of the bark, the angle of the branches, the way the leaves move in the breeze–and let that be sufficient for the day.