Your garden has the exact mix of order and wilderness that appeals to you. You love it; it is beautiful.
The best feature of your garden is a huge shady tree under which there is a garden bench. A rope swing hangs delicately from its sturdy branches. The tree is big and strong. It will remain the same for eternity; you know it in your soul.
Over the years, that tree has become central to the pleasure you take from your garden. The dappled shade under the spread of its branches have been your companion on many a lazy afternoon. Its sturdy trunk has been your support during many a journey you took buried deep in the pages of your book. The rope swing has been the answer to your fits of hair- raising recklessness.
The creepers, unformed and delicate, have found the tree a reassuring presence. They have thrown their tiny arms around him and hugged him close to their little hearts. The flowers have bloomed with wild profusion, their delicate existence protected from the summer sun by the graceful sweep of the tree’s foliage.
An entire world has lived under that tree. You need it. You can’t imagine your garden without it. You will have that tree in your garden. You have decided this and you are determined. There will be no negotiation on that. Ever.
The stage is set. The time it right for wind to heave that tree out of the earth it was ensconced snugly in. And it does, right on divine cue.
For no earthly reason, for no fault of yours, your garden no longer has the tree you couldn’t do without. It lies uprooted and torn… just like the dreams you had woven around him.
But wait! Perhaps all is not lost.
Maybe you can bring in an expert horticulturist and he can guide you on how to put that tree back on its feet again. Maybe you can get hold of an old gardener, who though without formal education, is deeply connected with the wisdom of living things; a lot more than can be written in huge tomes. Maybe you can commune directly with your own wisdom and intuitively know how to make him stand tall again. You do all of those things, to no avail.
Before you went into your salvage operation on a war- scale, you missed out on something vital. If your desperation hadn’t been driving you frantic, you would surely have noticed it. Had you not been so focused on your sense of loss, you might have seen something which can only be called a ‘game- changer’.
Your beautiful tree, vibrant with life, was hollow within. It’s life force had dissipated long ago. It looked strong and invincible on the outside; it had nothing but scant grey dust inside, the kind that could be stirred by the faintest wind. The tree had given up long ago; it was no longer holding on to the soil. It’s spirit had fled, leaving the hulk behind. That is why the wind could uproot it so easily.
It is time to let go of the tree. It is time to look to the garden. The creepers will need to be given support. The flowers will have to be protected. You must learn to read without the solid reassurance of the tree’s truck against your back. The rope swing will never again lend itself to your flights of crazed recklessness. The garden, and the pleasure it gave you, will have to be restructured.
You know about letting go. You’ve heard the phrase until you’ve gone cross- eyed because it is so awfully in your face.
Knowing something intellectually and accepting it emotionally are two entirely different things. In an academic discussion, you may pontificate endlessly about how one needs to move on. When the rubber meets the road, however, the story is different. To hide from your own finger of accusation, you construct an intricate fabric of excuses. The theme of these excuses is, “Oh but my circumstances/ situation is different. You don’t understand.”
Sorry, but no. Your circumstances are not different. The situation is the same as it has always been since the beginning of time. You are being a sorry wimp. That’s all there is to it.
You don’t want to let go. You still think this is a bad dream which will get over soon. You can’t imagine why the universe would play such a cruel joke on you. After all, you never harmed anyone in your life!
You’re scared. You crave the comfort of familiarity. Over time, the presence of the tree has seeped into the cracks of your consciousness and settled in. To scrape it all out is a tedious job. Moreover, it would compel you to restructure the entire inner space. It is too daunting a task.
And so you try to find little compromises that would let you maintain status- quo. Desperately, you try to ignore the worst patches and drape a pretty table cloth over their leprous colors. A squirt of room freshner and you are in the business of selling yourself something that can no longer be bought.
You think you can repair the broken. You think it is your job to salvage the tree. You blame yourself for not doing enough. It is your responsibility, you tell yourself. Don’t you want the reassuring presence of the tree melded to you for eternity? If only you would try a little more, surely the tree will be as it was before?
Had the wind torn away only a few branches from the tree, you could have hoped that time would restore the tree to its former glory. Even then, the healing was not yours to give. There is a limit to how much you could have done for the tree. Beyond your own capacity, it was up to the tree to want to heal. It was up to the benevolent universe to provide the means for the tree to heal itself. You would have had to let go even then, albeit temporarily, to give it time to heal on its own pace.
With a hollow core, indicating very clearly that the tree had let go, there is nothing to be done. Neither time nor you can compel a living thing to live in a place it doesn’t choose to, merely because you want it. The choice was never yours to make.
Gather together the memories of the tree. Carefully preserve mementos of the time you spent under his loving shade. Look back on your time in his presence with gratitude and joy. He was there once and will never be again. He made you happy and content; he must never be remembered with bitterness or sadness. Let happy memories retain their glowing colors. No one can take those memories away from you, not even time.
Yes there will be times when you will be nostalgic. You will miss the tree. There will be times when you will be angry with it for betraying you so. You will hate it at times because it isn’t there to reassure you that your world is familiar and predictable. That’s inevitable. Yet…
The tree must be let go; it is beyond salvage.