There ’s a tree that existed before the woods,
in age twice as old.
Its roots suffered as the valley changed,
its leaves deformed by wind and frost.
People all laugh at its withered aspect,
caring nothing about the core ’s beauty.
When the bark is all stripped off,
only essence remains.

Translated by Tony Barnstone

My day began with my hearing a loud pop.  Then another.  And another.   Suspended somewhere between being bewildered and fearful, my mind felt useless.   This was a new sound – one that somewhat resembled the pelting of hail against the roof.   And even with the resemblance, hail was unlikely: sunlight poured though the bedroom window and the sky was cloudless.

After a few minutes, my mind had drifted into a state of curiosity.  The sound seemed to be waning so I wanted to tap into my amateur sleuthing skills and unravel the mystery.  It seemed to be coming from the skylight in the living room, so I quickly dressed and moved in that direction.

As I entered the living room area, there was again two or three quick clunks.  They were indeed against the skylight.  By now, my mind had found a new theory of a neighborhood crow pecking on the skylight.  That occasionally happens – usually when I have forgotten to put out bird seed in the morning.  As I looked up, there was only blue sky and no crow.

Rather than fluster myself by further looking for an answer, I decided to settle into my morning routine with some contemplative time, including a stroll among the nearby redwoods.  This land is the traditional home to the Coast Miwok, so it feels appropriate to begin the day with a humble acknowledgement of being a visitor to a vast and wise community that stretches over time and countless life forms.

The stroll often offers a glimpse of the intelligence woven into a seemingly simple existence.  Earthliness abounds in subtle gestures of generosity, gentleness, courage, reciprocity, joy, sweetness, strength, wholeness, respect, compassion, togetherness, and eternal love.  There is the vastness of heavenly space and invisible tethering of the breath holding all.

Sometimes, an unexpected insight arises in these morning meanderings.  It might be a sensation or feeling akin to boundless love, or something more practical.  On this morning walk, it was noticing the acorns gathered on the deck of our apartment when I returned.  Of course!  The acorns have long had a relationship with this land and those who live here.  These acorns are filled with nutrition, medicine, and all the potentiality of mighty oaks that offer endless other forms of support.  Now, it is the squirrels that remember, and gather the acorns in this neighborhood.

Embarrassingly, I had overlooked these gems.  They have been gracing our deck for the past few weeks, and likely have plunked onto our skylight without my attention.   But from now on, I will look forward to their arrival and treasure their presence as unassuming reminders of the tree of life.

This practice supports awareness of receiving and letting go.


  • Hold your hands in front of you.
    • Rotate your wrists 3 times in each direction.
    • Close and open the fingers 3 times.
    • Then, gently hold one hand in the other and squeeze.
    • Repeat with the other hand.
  • Shake out your arms, wrists and hands.


  • Repeat the following 3 times:
    • Breath One:
      • Inhale—Reach your arms and palms out in front of you. Spread the fingers.
        • Hold the Inhale—Reach your arms to the sides, shoulder-high. Fingers are still spread.
      • Exhale—Arms still to the sides.
        • Vigorously make a fist with the hands.
      • Breath Two:
        • Inhale—(Arms still to the sides.)
          • Release holding the fist. Spread out through your palms and fingers.
        • Exhale—Lower your arms to your sides. Palms and fingers relaxed.
      • Normal breath (for 6-12 breaths) – Arms relaxed at your sides.
        • (If seated, rest your palms on your thighs, palms upward.)

Transition Back into Your Day—

  • Sit quietly for several minutes.
    • Backs of your hands rest on your thighs, palms upward.
  • Imagine yourself as a tree, and that your hands are the roots.
      • Inhaling, imagine nutrients and fresh energy flowing inward through the fingertips and palms into your body and mind.
      • Exhaling, imagine that everything no longer needed is being released through the palms and fingertips.
    • Continue this rhythm of receiving and letting go for several minutes.
    • Then, allow your breath to return to normal before returning to your day.


This poem appears in Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems, page 111, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.   The photo is by Katie Azi on Unsplash.  The practice is an excerpt from “Our Inherited Wisdom:  54 Inspirations from Nature and Poetry” by Kate Vogt, page 41-42, available through Bookshop, or order through your local independent bookstore.   HEARTH is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021.




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