Letting go and the process of decay
I’ve been thinking about the process of decay. Decay is not a concept I’ve thought much about ordinarily, but I’ve been drawn to it because of the nurse logs I often pass in the forest.
A nurse log is a tree that’s fallen and has begun to decay, allowing new trees to grow right out of the decaying fibrous wood of the fallen tree. You’ll know when you see one – an entire tree is literally growing out of the rotting one! It’s an incredibly healthy place for a new tree to begin, brimming with nutrients for some lucky young seedling. But new trees don’t grow out of hard logs lying on the forest floor. The process of decay must have well and truly set in to allow the richness and goodness to be released, to feed a young seedling looking for a place to grow.
As a writer I struggle sometimes to let go, disappointed with projects that have hit a dead end, timelines that have had to be adjusted so often I don’t remember where they began. I rail against the shelving of great ideas that really just aren’t suitable for anyone but me. This is true for me in many areas of my life whether my goals are about fitness or finances or life balance. I have a hard time accepting a re-shuffle, a rewrite of what I’d planned. Instinctively I’m afraid of giving up, even when ‘giving up’ is the very necessary next important thing to do in order to begin again.
As I’ve matured I’m getting better at shouting, “Timber!” and letting the thing crash to the ground in a graceless heap. I can now pat myself on the back sometimes for easing up a little, for moving past an idea or a dream and recalibrating. I know intuitively on my forest walks, that fallen projects and goals are an excellent source of nourishment for something new to begin, for new life to spring from what I’ve let go of to allow new life to miraculously take root.
So why isn’t this automatic? Why is it that, even after I’ve let the thing fall, there’s no sign of new life? Why is it still just a fallen tree I continue to trip over?
This is the where I’ve needed to learn about the wonder of decay! Decay is the natural process of microorganisms devouring an old tree to soften it, to turn it into something new, something that will give life to a new young seedling – perhaps the best tree yet. If you allow decay to set in, to turn what’s fallen into what comes next, who knows what towering timber will take root?
There are four things that influence decay: moisture, warmth, oxygen and time. And therein lies the magic! When you’ve let the tree go remember these things:
(1) Moisture. Whatever it is you know as your Living Water, drink deeply. When you’ve let a tree come crashing down, be sure to stay hydrated. For me this means time and space for prayer and reflection. Drink deeply and often.
(2) Warmth. Be good to yourself. Be warm. Stay by the fire, lie in the sun on your living room floor, enjoy a movie, a visit with a good friend, a great bottle of wine, however you warm the cold places of your heart, give yourself permission – no, not just permission, applaud yourself for this act of self-grace. Stay warm.
(3) Oxygen – Breath. Be present. Recognize the gift that is today, the feel of the wind on your cheeks, the small moments that let you observe the miracle of life we are given each day.
(4) Time – Be patient. Step carefully over what’s fallen and know that time will bring the natural progression of moving past it all. New life will come, the forest is proof of it.
Let the old tree go. Enjoy these moments before something new takes root. Be good to yourself. The world needs you.
I invite you to share your own story of nurse logs and letting go in the Humanity Gallery. Check out the new exhibition “Nurse Logs and the Art of Letting Go” for writers and dreamers and seekers of all that is good in the world. Leave a link to your own blog where viewers can discover your journey.