thoughts on trust
* I wrote this a year ago, but am needing it hear it again today. Hoping there’s something helpful for you in here too.
This past summer I attended a wild plant workshop with herbalist Doug Simons. Doug is a trippy and endearing character who spent 20 years living primitively in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. He knows the local plants like family, cheerily greeting a valerian plant and then settling by its side to gossip about its characteristics and attributes for the next hour. On our last day together, Doug led us to a patch of yellow arnica flowers and advised us to get comfortable.
“We’re going on a plant journey,” Doug announced, “to meet and connect with your plant guide.”
Meeting our plant guide? My skeptic-o-meter began humming.
I had also been on several plant walks that summer hosted by the local Native Plant Society, which included a lot of the nerdiness I love—addressing plants by their latin names and cataloging them into genus and family—but these walks often felt dry, lacking the spontaneous love-jams to a wild strawberry or any acknowledgement of the plants’ uses. I was trying to reconcile these different styles and figure out where my path lay.
“Lie down, close your eyes and relax your body and mind” Doug instructed us from against a spruce trunk. He explained, with absolutely no irony, how we’d journey through a dark underground tunnel at the end of which we’d meet our plant guide.
I flicked a deer fly off my face. Adjusted position. Scratched my knee. Someone yawned. I might have heard snoring. I imagined walking through this dark underground tunnel. And walking. In the darkness.
Right into the arms of the aspen tree.
Oh, hello aspen.
We chatted, aspen and I. We talked about how, in loving plants, some people are scientific, others more esoteric. The approach doesn’t matter, the aspen said, what matters is your love. This is true of many things. I received the word trust. Everything about the aspen embodied trust:
*being the lone deciduous tree in a forest of conifers (be yourself!)
*bearing leaves through which the mountain winds comb furiously (be flexible!)
*growing and then shedding volumes of leaves annually (let go, courageously!).
Later, Doug asked a few of us to share our experiences. It’s more concrete, he said, when you tell someone. So, I’m telling you all. My word is trust. Trust!
Only one month into the year, trusting has been a powerful practice. It feels like the answer to a dozen multiple choice questions my mind serves up daily. How am I going to homeschool my kids, nurture my marriage, and meet my deadlines, which are stacking up like bottles in our recycling bin?
May I suggest the special of the house: trust?
Trust grew up in the same neighborhood as it’s all good, as the wise elder mentoring all the young upstart slogans. Trust is the bucket of water I throw on the hot flames of my worrying mind. The more I practice trusting, the better I get at it, which looks something like this: trust → gratitude → generosity → happiness → trust → gratitude…
Trust doesn’t appear to be a passive endeavor, like say, bathing your skin in the glow of the fridge light, hoping everything will get better while you avert your attention. It’s more like throwing your arms around yourself during a meltdown, the way you would your own child, and staying in the fear and self-loathing long enough to see what happens next. And when your mind says, “there’s nooo way you’re gonna meet your deadlines, sister. Face it, your writing ship is going down,” you can see this voice as a little repetitive, boring and familiar, the way your child’s been singing that terrible song your husband taught her for 3 days straight. And then, you breathe in, deeply, and try to hear the other, more uplifting sounds: the birdsong, the wind, the beating of your own wild, hopeful heart.
Trusting hushes my mental feedback so I can clearly see what needs to be done; sometimes nothing needs to be done except leaning into the luckiness of this life.
Do you have a word for the new year? Or a roadmap to trusting? Sharing is powerful. Tell me all about it.