When I was a child, on my family’s 80 acres of woodland in southwestern Wisconsin, there was a bent tree. It was a “water tree,” I was told, meaning that the Kickapoo Natives had bent it as a young sapling in order to point toward the nearest water source, a stream emerging from the hillside. By the time I was introduced to it, this tree was quite old and shaped almost like the number 7. That was the first tree I knew personally.
Many years later I loved a tree on my route to work. Perhaps 80 - 90 years earlier, someone had erected an iron fence next to it as a young tree and now the old oak had grown such that the old rusty metal fence bisected it.
Now, I have two beloved trees in Hong Kong. One is a gigantic banyan tree which has showered down so many new roots from old branches that the tree could easily occupy my entire living room space. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
Another tree is found on one of our wooded walks; this monstrosity miraculously grows right out of a concrete footbridge, its roots visibly gripping the concrete like spider veins on an old woman’s legs.
I love trees. And so it did not come as a surprise when one of my more recent epiphanies came as I was walking in the forested mountains on Hong Kong Island in what is called Tai Tam Country Park. I was on a lone walk, admiring the trees and the forest and contemplating Identity. How could I be both Brenda and an aspect of the I Am that is the collective body of God or the Divine? Can I be unified with Source (or God or the Divine) without losing my identity as Brenda?
The tree is the tree. It knows itself as itself, as an individual. I can look at the tree and recognize it. I might even recognize this tree from that. There’s the “water tree.” There’s the “spider vein tree,” or "there's the tree with the fence growing through it." The tree has its individual qualities, even its own vibration.
But I can also simply enjoy the entire forest. I can see the forest and admire its beauty, texture, variants of color, the way the clouds cast shadows that glide slowly across the forest’s surface, the way the trees' movements indicate the presence of a breeze. I can’t imagine the tree perceiving itself as separate from the forest, just because it is an individual within the forest. Nor can I imagine it forgetting who it is, just because it recognizes itself as a member of the whole rather than separate from it.
Identity is only expanded when we see ourselves as not separate from but integral to and unified with the collective of humanity, and especially with Source itself. We are both the trees and the forest. We always have been. When humanity knows that truth, then we will truly know Who we are.
Photos copyright © Brenda Brayko 2021. All rights reserved.