I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a group of people a couple of weeks ago in a quaint retreat area about an hour outside of Paris, France. This is an extended development initiative with a version of an action learning design and this was one of the initial sessions. The retreat itself is surrounded by wonderful trees and some of the more majestic ones have small labels on them indicating what type of tree it is and the age. Spreading out next to a large patio where a lot of the group ended up working one day was what seemed like the grandest tree of all. It was just beginning to sprout new leaves as spring had taken hold and it had been sprouting leaves for 285 years!
The first leaf on this tree emerged in the year 1728!
I think when we are in the presence of so very old and still so very alive entities we can’t help but imagine what such entities might have seen in their lifetime, what they have experienced and what they might have learned. And we often wonder what they might say to us given an experience of time we can only fantasize about.
I went back out to that tree later one evening once the hustle and bustle of the day’s session had passed and just put my hands on that big old tree and imagined what she might have to say to me (for some reason this tree felt like a she… to me anyway).
Here are some of the things that came forward:
• Try your best to do really good work with all these people, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I’ve seen a lot of people like you and those that take themselves too seriously usually don’t do good work.
• When you get old like me, don’t worry too much how you look. It’s a losing battle and those that care about you think you look majestic no matter what.
• I’ve spread a few million seeds around over the years. Most just blow away or die but some, like that 205 year old youngster over there don’t. The mystery is, you never know which ones might take hold so all of them are important even if it feels like most of them are just a waste of time.
• Don’t keep score too much. It produces way more losers than winners.
• What’s it feel like to be able to move around? Do you ever wonder what it might be like to be rooted and grounded for 285 years? Most of you don’t seem too grounded to me….
• Your best friends are never too far away. Make sure you take the time to look for them.
• Bugs and birds and vines and other stuff have been hanging around me for all my 285 years. Sometimes they are really irritating but mostly they’re just trying to get by. We get along ok even if we don’t understand each other too well by remembering that.
• I’ll likely be firewood some day and I’m ok with that.
• The worst invention ever is the chainsaw. At least with an axe you had to work harder. The guillotine was pretty nasty too I hear but I never saw one of those.
• Ok, you can take your hands off me now and go get some sleep.
This is not a post about nature being a metaphor for learning or how what we do should be more ‘natural’, more connected, more whatever that nature is trying to teach us. It’s simply a post about standing under a really old tree and imagining what the experience of that age might say, did say, to me.
We’ve all had this type of experience and sometimes we make it more complicated than what it needs to be by trying so hard to learn something. Maybe we just need to experience and see what happens.
Maybe that’s true about our organizations as well…..
So what might a 285 year old tree say to you!
Author – Tom