Walking to yoga yesterday, I had one of those irritating interactions with a driver who seemed to think it was taking me too long to cross the street. The driver lurched forward at our four way stop, I jumped back off the road and made eye contact, the kind of eye contact that says, “What do you think you’re doing?” She made the kind of hand motion that says, “Get on with it then,” and I did not break eye contact with her until I crossed through to the other side of the yellow line. She gunned it and passed behind me well before I was safely on the other sidewalk. And I thought about patience. Actually impatience first, and then patience.
I have a strong reaction to impatience. My father was impatient and sometimes volatile. One Saturday morning, I was in our basement rec room, a masterpiece of 1970s wood-panelling and red carpet, listening to my new album over and over on our single speaker record player. It was K-Tel’s “Fantastic.” (Mock me if you will, but you are mocking an eleven-year-old.) My father was in the back part of the basement, the unfinished part where he kept his workshop and tools. He was doing something that obviously wasn’t going too well. He opened up the door to the rec room, red with fury, took my record off, broke it in half over his knee, went back into his workshop and slammed the door. When I encounter impatience, I feel just like that eleven-year-old girl. I had no examples of patience as a child. It has taken me a lifetime to learn.
I need patience to read now. I’m reading about trees again. This time it is Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. I’ve been reading it, or trying to read it, for well over a year. I’ve started it four times and am currently on page 62. Again. It is great, but dense, and the kind of reading that is the most challenging to me as I continue to recover from my concussion. Trees are models of patience. They live in slow motion compared to us. Their actions take time. According to Wohlleben, they might even be called conscious actions. They might even be communicating with each other. And if we knew how to listen, they would be communicating to us. When I am frustrated by my slow reading, I think about the trees I’m reading about and find my patience again. Like Wohlleben, I am most at peace in a forest. Even if I can’t be in the forest at this moment, reading about it is the next best thing. I can imagine the smell of a stand of Douglas Fir and transport myself there. My own free Forest Therapy.
In yoga, we do tree pose. I think about the trees, their roots, their silent (to us) communications to each other. I balance my weight across my foot, try not to wobble. I have my drishti, my gaze on something unmoving, and I am, for a second, one with the trees. Then my mind wanders to the driver and I fall out of the pose. I don’t know why she was impatient. We are all fighting our own battles and I don’t know what hers are. I hope she finds some calm in her day. I return to the pose. I fall out again. I try again.
Today’s featured book: Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees. Vancouver: Greystone Books. 2015.