I had never seen a banyan tree. This one, in Cypress Gardens in Florida, is not particularly old, but it is massive and extraordinary to the eyes of this midwesterner. Banyans are single-tree forests. From the branches hang down these searching, grasping fingers of root. The roots travel down to the earth, and a new trunk forms. Each spreading branch is supported by dozens of trunks.
The tree extends its reach by reconnecting with the earth. It taps into greater sturdiness and support again and again.
One tree becomes a whole forest.
I am not particularly good at seeking out support, at regrounding or tapping into the Source with anything resembling a disciplined rhythm.
Last week, my son and I traveled to Florida to spend time with my aunt and to have a vacation. My wife was the catalyst for this; she sought out the tickets, bought them, and told me when it was settled. She knows me; she knows that I would dither and hem and haw, that I would be too timid to spend the money and just go. So she sent us off to paradise for five days. The tickets were non-refundable.
It was paradise. The sun, and the heat, and the beauty. The ocean. Family. I could feel my heart swelling and growing stronger, fed by the rhythm of the waves, and by ease and kindness and love in beautiful surroundings. We spent Easter at an amusement park. We rode a fan-powered boat down a river and saw a heron's nest high in a tree with the babies lifting their long beaks to their mother. We rode the waves and let them batter us.
One morning, we got up early and gathered at a beach parking lot to await the arrival of a long white van. In the van were two big, black tubs. In the tubs, huge loggerhead turtles, ready to go home to the sea. I held my son's hand as we watched the people who had cared for the turtles as they recovered from whatever injuries had led them back up onto the land, carried them down to the waves. The first of the two turtles turned away from the rush of water for a moment, and then turned back, pushed off, and was gone. The second did not hesitate at all. She plunged forward and dove under the bitter-salt water and away. Home. There was an ancient wisdom in the way they slipped so trustingly back into the sea. I was witness to deep magic that morning.
Five days, and a beautiful reunion with some old friends before the flight home, and then we were back. Minnesota welcomed us with cold, and damp, and snowflakes yesterday, but today, it was brilliant and warm.
I am still recovering my rhythm here at home, trying to find my way back into the day-to-day. This vacation followed my son's spring break from school, so we were already topsy-turvy before we left. I can't really remember how to cook food for my family or how to get anything done in a day. School will come again on Monday, and I'll go back to work, and life will come back into flow.
Perhaps I have it backwards. Perhaps it's not that the tree seeks out support from the earth as it grows. Perhaps the earth calls to the tree, pulls the tendrils of root downwards, whispers to the twisting handfuls of longing fingers, "just settle here. Grow into this place." Maybe the tree simply allows the connection to happen, and finds that it was the right place to lean into support all along.
And do you see what else there is? There are bromeliads living in the nooks and crannies of the tree. Other living beings can live on those reaching roots and trunks.
So many creatures or people or little delicate plants, or all three, can shelter in its arms. The banyan is supported, and it can thereby offer so much.
I'm a little dizzy on metaphor right now. I think I'll just keep living with this banyan, and with the insistent push of the Atlantic waves, and with the golden light of evening on the pink flowers, and the songs of the mockingbirds, and let springtime happen around me. It's a good time to be alive.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.