"Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing." — Laurie Buchanan

Bend but Don’t Break

Trees are high on the list of my favorite living creatures. Each day as I traverse back and forth to HolEssence—on bike, on foot, in car—I pass ginormous trees that have lived in this area for hundreds of years. Many of them are in the front yards of what had been the homes of railroad barons in days gone by.

In August we experienced several storms that blew through, stripping off roofs and leveling most everything in its path. Pictured below is a tree I photographed after the storm. It wasn’t yanked up by its roots, rather, it snapped—like a twig—in the gale force winds.

From the outside, the tree had appeared to be healthy. But I suspect it had been ill, as most trees—like people—have an inherent resilience that allows us to recover from things that push the envelope past the cutting edge, to the bleeding edge.

When was the last time you were stretched beyond your limit?

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
— Laurie Buchanan

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Comments on: "Bend but Don’t Break" (80)

  1. I think I stretched and have not blended back yet…..smile

  2. I stretched emotional and socially more this summer than I had in a long long time. I was wounded but didn’t break !

    Tree’s are majestic creatures, grand old ladies and gents of the forest and our yards.

  3. So many times I feel stretched – too stretched – but when I feel a too-hard bend coming, I sit, stretch (physically), go to yoga, meditate, and then release the world and go ahhhhhhhh. Then I feel as if I’m standing tall again.

  4. I have most definitely been stretched…& have bounced back more flexible…It’s been a while but I have to say currently I am being stretched pretty close to my limits. Just like before I am confident in the fact that I may bend, I may even lose a few branches and some bark…but I will withstand the wind :)

    • Chris – Knowing you personally, I’ve actually seen you weather some very serious storms — horrific, in fact — and each time you’ve come out stronger than before.

  5. I’ve been stretched and broken many times, but I always seem to get mended again!!

  6. I had to think about this…having been stretched and bent so many times I have become somewhat resilient. This summer I kept blowing off a nagging stomach problem, hoping it would get tired and go away. One morning I got up, threw some things in a bag and took myself to the Emergency room. After waiting many hours I was diagnosed with appendicitis and would be having surgery in the morning. Letting my family know that things were under control, I prepared for a restful, drug-numbed night. Suddenly, the Doctor rushes in, “We’ll do surgery now!” he exclaims, ” Do you have Family here to be with you?” I gazed at him in shock and dismay, no one to hold my hand at 1:00 in the morning! I put myself in God’s hands and ” Do it, just do it”. Sometimes fear can make you brittle enough to break, but God’s gentle hand can relax you and let you be limber enough to bend. And so I did, it was all fine, and so am I.

  7. Hi Laurie,
    I sure do share your love of trees! So sad to see them fall. As for stretching vs. breaking I’ve done both, preference would be the stretching of course. I try to do that daily, both physically and mentally – in fact I MUST.

  8. I’m not sure when the event occurred (or perhaps it was a series of events) but my body knew and it reacted. I’m recovering from my third cause of shingles–and I’m not yet 50. Shingles usually affects people over 50. Possible causes are poor diet, lack of exercise and poor stress management. I thought things were tickety-boo, but apparently I was wrong. I plan to do more study on stress management.

  9. If I don’t finish packing soon and quit believing any stressful thoughts, then I could be near my limit! Bending sounds good…stretching…relaxing… Ahhh, I feel better already, Laurie Tree.

    • Kathy – I’m so excited for you. I hope you have a GRAND time because I plan to live through you vicariously. I can hardly wait to see the photos!!!!!

      • It’s going to be a while, Laurie. I am going off line for a long time. (I think.) Not even bringing Miss Ellie the laptop computer to the wedding! Trying to be 100% present to What’s Happening There. Much love…

      • Kathy – That’s the BEST way to do it! That way, you can re-live it again when you get home and share it with the rest of us :)

  10. Tornado just blew the trees in my neighborhood and St sunny and blue sky’s out!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Oh I know this experience well, I have a 200 year old red cedar pulling up the sidewalk and heading towards my house since the February ice storm….The 200 pound branches falling were better than a Halloween movie for scaring me right down to the bone….now I have to stretch and approach the neighbors, who just moved in this weekend, about what to do about this worrisome tree stuck in partial repose….Our 150 year old apple tree is rotting from the inside out…I am trying to root stock it because the apples are so delicious ( not like the new Gravensteins)

    I know you have already commented on my blog post book review…but I think many of your readers would love the book I reviewed today….I am giving it to 4 friends for their birthdays…There is a drawing for a free copy of the book from the publisher too…just for a comment

    Here is the link

    • Patricia – THANK YOU for providing the link to your book review. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I know that many of the readers here will too. Let us know once you’ve approached the new neighbors regarding the tree. I’m confident that everything will be resolved amicably :)

  12. My friend’s boulevard tree broke during our August storms, too. She thinks it was struck by lightning, since she smelled the acrid scent of sulphur when she ran out to discover the source of the huge bang she’d heard. The city cut it back down to the ground. She found it very distressing as she has lived in that house for 40 years and thought, like you, that it was a strong and healthy tree. She felt a little like that tree, having suffered a stroke a few years ago. She has since regained most of her mobility and she is glad the doctors didn’t cut her off at the ankles like the city workers did to her beloved tree. :)

    • Mywithershins – Oh, what a shame about your friend’s beloved tree.

      When the developer cleared the trees beyond the protected wetlands behind our little house, we — along with our neighbors — watched in horror as he dozed the trees and then ran them through the chipper. This, after contracting to relocate them. He justified his behavior by saying that the fine for not honoring the contract was less costly than relocating the trees.

      • That is a crying shame! Where I grew up, there was a wooded area behind out house that has since been torn down to put up a Superstore, apartments, condos and a Synagogue. I miss the green space. :(

      • Mywithershins – It’s been my experience that not all “progress” is forward moving. Sometimes it actually sets us back.

  13. Laurie, I was pushed beyone my limit just this morning when three new students were added to a class already at 31. Yikes! Now I must allow for some catch up and guard against discipline problems since all three are challenging. Ah well.

    I love trees too, and this ever-popular poem by New Jerseyan Joyce Kilmer:


    by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

    THINK that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
    Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

    A tree that looks at God all day,
    And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

    A tree that may in Summer wear
    A nest of robins in her hair;

    Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
    Who intimately lives with rain.

    Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.

  14. Laurie … your blog prompted my desire (as a lover of trees as well) to share this book. Forgive me if I’ve shared this before, … a beautiful book entitled “Keepers of the Trees: A Guide to Re-Greening North America” by Ann Linnea (a former US Forest Service naturalist; writer; Kayaker extraordinaire [circumnavigated Lake Superior in her kayak] and woman of spirit, who taught me how to “hug a tree.”) This book features people who have committed themselves to caring for trees. “Trees are the lungs of the planet. Trees are essential community assets. Trees determine the future of life on earth.” Here’s to all the lovers of trees!

  15. I suppose I was broken a number of years ago by bipolar disorder, but since then it seems I’ve regrown a new trunk–stronger and more flexible. Great metaphor, Laurie!

  16. Two and a half years ago… In a three month span, my daughter graduated from college, my youngest (son) graduated from high school, my daughter married, my son moved out and into a dorm and I started a new full time job. It was too much to process in a short period of time. All of the events are obviously normal processes of life, but I was physically and emotionally spent. For the record, I love the word “ginormous.”

  17. Oh, my, Laurie — every day sometimes I think I am being stretched beyond my limits. I think of my yoga practice: go easily into your stretching and your stretching will come easily into you. Thank you for bringing such easy wisdom to our lives :-)

    • Barbara – With all of the platters you’re spinning and wicks you’ve got burning simultaneously, you’re an Olympian Stretcher. Girl, you’ve got the GOLD!

  18. Thankfully the stretches required lately have all yielded greater flexibility…without breakage. I love the trees too…grounded in earth and rising toward heaven.

  19. Haven’t broken yet, though I’m creaking in a few places.
    The melanoma thing 2.4 years ago came fairly close to breaking me, as have a few others.

  20. December 2010 ~ things had to change and I changed them. Ashamed to say, it wasn’t a pretty picture. I guess I snapped for the same reasons the tree in your storm did…

  21. How wonderful that we both wrote about trees this week. Great minds…. Amazing picture. Thank you for sharing.

  22. What a brilliant metaphor!

  23. What a stunning photograph and much food for thought..it’s sad to see an old tree damaged like that.they cannot hide from the wind. like we can

  24. I am pleased to look back on the times I have been stretched. (Other than an unfortunately attempt to try hot yoga!) It is in these moments that we learn what we’re made of. We should aim to be less afraid of a good stretch. :)

    • Thenicethingaboutstrangers – “We should aim to be less afraid of a good stretch.” Words to live by! (and that’s precisely why I practice Tai Chi)…

      • Readers –

        If you have a chance to head over to Courtney Carver’s blog – Be More With Less – I’ve written a guest post you may enjoy.

        Additionally, I’m currently being hosted by Leanne Dyck over at The Sweater Curse. They just celebrated Thanksgiving in her neck of the woods (Mayne Island, Canada) so she’s got some amazing leftovers!

  25. Bend but dont break. That’s beautiful. Being pushed to the limits is not usually palatable. I rather stay where I can’t be reached to be pushed. Lovely imagery!

  26. I found this blog just wondering about in the wee hours of morning. Just the boost I needed to keep going. Thanks. Love it.

  27. Hello Ms. Buchanan

    In the past two years I have had more round trips to hell and back than I care to count. I feel like a boomerang. However, I recently had an experience that was more than just an ‘ah ha’ moment.

    About 6 weeks ago I was invited to a 3 day empowerment retreat. I really didn’t know what it was, or what to expect. So I went open minded and when I left, I felt like I had been transformed into GUMBY (bendable not breakable)!

    When I got home curiosity made me look at my calendar. As fate would have it, the weekend of the empowerment retreat was the one year anniversary of my being diagnosed with cancer. If you had told me a year ago, what I would be doing a year from then, I would never have believed it.

    Thank you for letting me share and I look forward to exploring more of your site.

  28. AirportsMadeSimple said:

    I would consider myself much like Gumbi the green stretch doll! I don’t like breaking, but I think my Mother pushes me into a semi-breakable position many times a year. So much so I have to really start over and get re-grounded.

  29. Thanks, Laurie, for the pearls of wisdom. I am new here and trying to get the courage to continue with my blog as it seems to be much more challenging than most. In getting back to the spirit of trees, it is so true and am just realizing this past year or so how attracted one can be to trees. I find myself photographing so many on walks and a favorite thus far is the American Sycamore tree which turns so, so romantic in the winter months and beautiful against the winter skyline. Many blessings!

    • Thorns4roses – Welcome to Speaking from the Heart (also known as “Tuesdays with Laurie”). I just checked out your blog and clicked on “follow” so I hope you’ll stick with it :) I’d have to agree with you about the American Sycamore tree. But then again, I’ve never met a tree I didn’t like :)

  30. I’ll try to post a poem or some rhetoric to my particular favorite Sycamore tree soon but then that would mean I’d have to get the pen flowing :)…the camera is always clicking away these days! Thank you so much for the “follow.”

    • Thorns4roses – I see you got the pen flowing :)

      • Thank you for the encouragement….it is so appreciated! My poem was written some time ago but thought it fit with the way posts were starting to flow with a theme (all 3 of them/so smiling). However, don’t think a theme is something this lady can follow but had thought of it ~ (we’ll see) ~ will soon post that narrative to a favorite photo of the Sycamore tree. Have a great week ahead of ironing and stretching ~ stay tuned!!!

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