Under, Over, Through

I sit at my desk, perched in front of a window, for several hours each day. Whether it’s for online client sessions (via FaceTime or Skype), writing, or dipping into various social media pools, I have the perfect vantage of a many-hundred year old oak tree and its various occupants: squirrels, chipmunks, woodpecker, and one raccoon.

In multiple hours of viewing, I’ve never — ever! — observed them go around the tree.

Clearly evidenced by their tracks in the snow, you can see prints leading up to, and away from the tree, but not a single print around the base of the tree (click on the photo to enlarge).


When they arrive at this “obstacle,” rather than go around it (skirt the issue, ignore it, or sweep it under the carpet), they go under, over, or through it to get to the other side!

When you encounter an obstacle on life’s journey, how do you get to the other side?

Laurie Buchanan

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

The Book — Discovering the Seven Selves
The Experience — Life Harmony

© Laurie Buchanan 2014

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67 thoughts on “Under, Over, Through

  1. Oh, my goodness, Laurie. I sit at my writing desk too in front of a window in view of several live oak trees. There are squirrels and birds aplenty these days. Just substitute Florida for Illinois–ha!

    Yesterday, I was trying to convert a segment of a 1950s home movie that started out as 16 mm into a WordPress video format, no small feat. When I saw I was in over my head, I enlisted the help of my son Joel, and husband Cliff. There were two different operating systems involved (PC vs Mac) and incompatible file types, but eventually the goal was accomplished though it took hours. I think all your prepositions were involved in the total process: over, under, and through. Not “around” though!

    You are genius at turning what is often overlooked into an “aha” moment.

    • Marian – The old PC vs Mac, compatible vs incompatible, would have had me running down the street — screaming. My hat is off to you, your husband and son for sticking with it!

      Almost 3 years ago I switched to a Mac and I’m really glad that I did — but the transition seemed horrifying at the time: I got OVER it (although many times I felt the weight of being UNDER it) — but now it’s in the rearview mirror, because I got THROUGH it 🙂

  2. Gosh, Laurie. I’m a stubborn one! 🙂 And I thought I was a tad smarter than a squirrel…:)

    A good lesson. I will file it away. Thanks for another great thought-provoking post. Cheers, Deb

  3. What a nice a comforting post :-). I love the choices these little animals have made.
    And I love your way to observe it! Thank you for the smile it put on my lips.

  4. Great reflection question … as I think of recent months … it depends. When faced with driving in severe winter weather, especially icy roads … I’ll avoid it (go around) when I can and change to phone-based appointments. Yesterday I too I stayed with (go through) an uncooperative computer unwilling to recognize my wireless connection. Is that just being stubborn?
    When faced with the big heath challenges now in my family there is a moment of “noooo” then the only choice seems to be “go through it” by being present and learning both what is valuable to them and how to take care of me.

  5. Ah yes, and the footprints always emerge on the other side. They never get stuck for long.

    I have to share a funny memory. This little story made me remember my first grammar lesson on prepositions, must have been about 4th grade I think. We were told a preposition was everything a squirrel could do to a tree (under, over, around, through, etc). Me having older brothers, I immediately thought of something a squirrel could do to a tree that was certainly not a preposition – I had good sense to keep to myself. (rhymes with tree in case you need a hint) 🙂

  6. Oh Laurie, you are great. Love this post. For me it all depends. Given an emergency I go through it like a trooper. If you give me time to think about what I should do, I might go around it and pretend it never happened or sweep it under the rug and hope that nobody else notices.

  7. This brings up (for me) the question of whether the squirrel’s final destination was the tree? If not, if it was something further on, would it not have been smarter to go around? As to your question, I give my typical answer: it depends. As Audrey said, some things (like nasty winter roads) are best gone around. Or the moods and whims of people around you – unless you have to live with them 24/7. Most often I tend to confront things head on, if I feel that has a chance of progress.

  8. We have squirrels in the oak trees by our house ,when we are in bed in the morning , we can see them flying from one tree to another like lots of little tarzans’… such acrobats.

    When I go on a journey Laurie, I never come back the way I go , unless, I have no choice. That is not for scenic reasons…It’s just because I can’t remember the way I went… to get where I was going…if you follow me ( you probably know by now I’m a little dizzy by nature and after being on a journey with me you’d be dizzy too lol)

    When I’m in social situations ( parties etc … which terrify me) I would like to do what Oscar ( my dog ) does when he’s had enough of people ..he goes under the table , chair or bed . I read a quirky book this year ( it’s for teenagers …but I’m no snob) called ‘Geek Girl’ by Holly Smale and she met the love of her life under the table at a party . I already have the love of my life so I won’t go looking under table for one…actually I think I met him under a table …nah just joking ..I fooled you though didn’t I .

    So pleased about your award …has it gone to your head ??
    Great post as always
    Cherry x

    • Cherry – I love the description of the book you referenced here, meant for teenagers or not, I’m going to check it out as well 🙂 I think it’s great you never return to Point A via the same route you arrived at Point B — we tend to gather more life experiences under our belt that way 🙂

  9. Laurie, I have been aware as of late that squirrels have been managing some astonishing acrobatics, successfully navigating the dangerous branch-to-branch trek which allows them to travel from tree to tree. As you have well established through close observation these animals know what they want and are not sidetracked by going in circles. Lucille and I did learn the hard way over the past year when some found a small hole between the siding and the roof, which allowed access to a long space over our ceilings. One actually made an unwelcome appearance in the heating vents, and we had to call in an electrician because some wires had been apparently chewed through. We have since rectified the situation by having a whole new roof constructed.

    When I do reach an obstacle I am initially in denial, and go through the stage where I exude confidence that things will work out. But alas as we all know it does require at some point that we take the bull by the horns.

    Wonderful post today!

    • Sam – Yowza! That homeward bound squirrel cost you and yours plenty of “acorns” in having to have a new roof! Like you, the “Bull by the Horns” method, though usually not fun, is the best way I know how to get past obstacles 🙂

  10. I withdraw and bunker down to plan an attack…and usually find that by the time I’ve fired up the chainsaw and picked the perfect pair of safety goggles, the ‘obstacle’ has sorted itself out.

  11. This is utterly fascinating. Who would have thought they never go around? Guess one can learn something new every day! As for handling obstacles, I keep learning every day that for me it’s best to simply go into them and allow them to be in awareness without necessarily reacting in old patterns. To allow each side of the apparent obstacle to exist, to feel all the feelings associated with them, and to surrender in faith and trust that the right action will arise from the inner knowing. It’s still a learning curve and I can still stress around and around in circles.

  12. Laurie, there’s an old phrase that any one involved with a business that included having goods shipped to them will recall. At the end of completing your purchase order you will most often find a phase or word like this one “Ship:” I was always told to write “Best Way”. It was years before I found out that Best Way was not the name of a freight company but exactly what it says…Ship the best way you can find to get it here asap. So when I am confronted by a choice of “how will I overcome this?” I usually go the Best Way that presents it’s self at the time.

    • Sandi — yes, Yes, YES! I love your “Best Way” story and method!

      Your story reminds me of an experience last week. The checker was busy with my order so a young man started bagging my groceries. Before doing so he asked, “Any particular way you’d like these bagged?” I smiled and said, “Carefully please.” With that, he proceeded to put two cartons of eggs on the bottom, and topped them with heavy heads of broccoli and cauliflower. Clearly, “carefully” is subjective 🙂

      • Now, I got a good snort of amusement from the packing boy story! I know I sometimes have to remind them that all the cans don’t necessarily belong in one bag, and to even out the load.

  13. How observant you are, Laurie, to notice this! It seems there is no end to the lessons we can learn from nature. I used to go around obstacles more often than not, but now I tend to go through them, which is often the only sensible way out.

    • Barbara – A nature lover, the slightest little movement outside the window captures my attention. Today it’s the black-capped chickadees playing in the snow-covered hedges just below my window. They’re “diving” in the snow for seeds. Yes – we can learn many lessons from nature.

      “…I tend to go through them, which is often the only sensible way out.” Amen siSTAR! 🙂

  14. Hi Laurie,

    We don’t have squirrels or raccoons in NZ, but I did spend a few hours when in the USA watching squirrels in trees.
    Your analogy is cute, but not really to the point.
    As you noted at the start, those animals live in the tree. For them, it isn’t an obstacle, it is home.

    How often do any of us walk around our homes?
    We normally go into them, or come out of them, to some purpose.
    Very rarely do our homes occur to us as “obstacles”.

    And when I do run into obstacles, I am like Sandi – best way. And what is best will depend very much on the specific circumstances of the moment.
    Best way might be the least energy path, or the least time path, or the least disruption path.
    The calculations may involve just myself, or a small group, or a much larger group.

    If designing a motorway with a 50 year design life, then the least energy path (over the life and use loading of the road) may involve huge expenditure of effort up front to dig a tunnel through a hill. If it is just me, on an afternoon jog, the solution is a very different path.

    So the sort of path we choose can be hugely influenced by the number of people we expect to use it after us.

    For me, I try and choose paths that are interesting for me and others who follow, are compatible with the life forms already existent there, and achieve their purpose with a minimum expenditure of energy and time – and sometimes there are huge conflicts in those goals to resolve.

    Another factor often involved is the urgency. If one has the luxury of time, one can take decades over the design of an optimal solution, if one has a grizzly bear on one’s tail, not so much.

    So choosing and building paths is rarely dull.

    • Ted – a great point to factor in — urgency — and how much time we’ve got. And others — who all is involved, and what’s their buy in (voluntary, involuntary)? Great factors – both!

      You don’t circle your house?! 🙂

  15. I do love your analogy of the tree being like a block to what we want to accomplish. When I see the photo I think of the tree being the destination and home for many. When I notice footprints going around the trees in my yard, its where animals are chasing something. Perhaps there is more wisdom to learn from squirrels about life 🙂

    • Val – I’m glad you enjoyed the analogy. In the summertime our oak tree is definitely a destination. We have a protected wetlands behind our house, so right now (under multiple feet of snow) it’s home to most of the local critters. The oak tree in our front yard has an open bole fairly high up. It’s serves as the “front door” to “Rascal” — the raccoon who’s currently “king of the hill.” That will change many times over the spring as hormones rage and tempers get hot! 🙂

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  17. I guess it depends on the obstacle. I’m good at working through certain things but I’d much, MUCH rather skirt around other issues. 🙂 Great food for thought, Laurie!

  18. As of late, I have been just letting go of obstacles. I have worried about finances for 63 years and I just am burned out. I just handed the problem to my partner last month, and he said we had no funds for food last week so I just opened the freezer door and defrosted – it was a week of black beans, rice, beets and raspberries – but only because I planned ahead when the goods were in season. This week will not include rice.

    But then my PC crashed, so I guess I have been working through this problem as much on my own as possible. IT Girl did suggest I get a new octopus plug as this energy efficient one maybe contributing to the problem. I borrow back the small Mac computer to do my posts, See the problem, feel the feelings and just continue forthwith any way I can find to proceed.

    If I go back and dwell on the issues that contributed to the problem then I am left with questions like – Why did Churches feel that $500 a month was adequate pay for a female minister who was working 50 hours a week – It was basically because I let them and where do I get with that hindsight?

    I am enjoying the conversation I am having in comments with the author from my Monday review – it is not a problem at all and is rather delightful. 4 of my college friends are sending me emails all about the author commenting on my review – though they are afraid to purchase anything on line or comment themselves. This is very fun.

    I love reading all the stories and comments on your posts…..it makes for quite an interesting conversation around you clever writing – I am sure that is your intention!

    • Patricia – You asked a PROFOUND question:

      “…and where do I get with that hindsight?”

      Because we’ve ALL learned things the hard way (not a one of us hasn’t), it’s a great questions for EACH of us.

      THANK YOU for posing it! 🙂

  19. Those three words – over, under, through – are already part of my life mantra.
    Stuff happens, and I have the choice about how to respond.
    I’m guessing your squirrels figured out they can’t go through a tree. Smart little guys can teach us all a thing or two.

  20. Great post! I bet we all make those choices frequently; over, under, through (or around). I know that they fill my life these days. I love the photo and think that maybe an invisible cloak may have been used. I use mine often, to get where I need to go, without anyone noticing 🙂

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