My favorite hiking path winds down into a peaceful canyon below my house. It’s the perfect trail for a hot day because the trees provide cover from the sun. On rainy days, it is like hiking under a giant umbrella. As I make my way downhill, it is fascinating to observe the remarkable trees that have sprouted up from the hillside and to see how each tree handles the challenge of finding its way to some sunlight.
Some trees desperately send out gnarled branches in every direction, hoping to claim as much sunshine as possible. Just looking at these trees makes my shoulders ache, as I imagine how tiring it must be to hold this posture for decades. Occasionally, I notice one that has finally given up the struggle, letting a large branch drop to the ground. In some cases, the whole tree has slipped down the eroding hillside. Other trees somehow manage to plant themselves firmly into the hillside, spreading out into graceful fans. They remind me of a yoga instructor who can relax into a challenging pose, simply because she has learned to align her body properly. These trees have just as much weight to hold up, but they have wisely found a way to balance their load without letting it becoming a burden.
To me, trees illustrate so poignantly the importance of growing with intention. Whether I find myself on level ground or a rocky hillside, taking the time to spread out my roots can be the difference between remaining upright after a storm or collapsing with the rush of water. I am easily distracted by the illusion that there might be a faster way to reach the sunlight, but the reality is, I will never get there without a healthy foundation.
Keeping my priorities straight and maintaining balance in my schedule is a goal that often evades me in the middle of they year, but at the start of the new year, its importance is crystal clear. It seems unimaginable that I would allow myself to deviate from the ideals of my new year’s resolutions. Experience tells me it will only take a few weeks for me to get so busy that I start to feel one of my branches getting a little two heavy. For me, giving myself the permission to start over again is the key to not slipping down the hillside all together.
Though we flip to a new page on the calendar on specific dates, every day is the beginning of a new year, and a chance to begin. Every time we veer off course, we have the opportunity to reset ourselves. Every day challenges us to find a way to grow and strive toward the light without compromising our health and our stability.
Julie Haydon is an artist and musician living the beautiful hills of Oakland, CA who creates works of beauty that brings people together. When she is not at work in the studio or making music, she is outside playing in the dirt or hiking with her husband and their two spoiled dogs.