break your heart and plant some trees (lots of them)

more and more, i’ve been thinking about what’s happening with - what we’ve done to - the world, ourselves and all life on this planet. i’ve been observing the habits of human beings and the responses of this living world to our behaviors. and i’ve come to the conclusion that we’re basically SOL unless we start planting things, especially trees - lots of them. yes, policy change is critical and must be moved on immediately, vigorously and at massive scale. yesterday would be a good time. but planting trees (with a mix of flowers, vegetables and anything that will support pollinators) is one of the single most important things we can do as individuals, families and communities. right now.

sitting in my hotel room in Paris, i’m aware of the irony that i just took one of three plane flights to see more of Europe before my return journey back to California. i feel deeply hypocritical about my choice to travel in this way. i could have chosen differently. i could have chosen trains. but i didn’t. i could have chosen not to travel at all. but i didn’t. my one consolation is my commitment that this will be my last time ever (barring the possibility of an extreme personal emergency) to use this mode of transportation.

so what do trees have to do with this?

everything. i’ve been thinking and feeling about the world for a long time. (like the last, ummm, 4 decades. but that’s another story.) we’ve pretty much created a shit-storm here on planet earth and the “powers that be” seem to be hell-bent on taking us and everything here down with us. i’m not saying it’s totally hopeless. yet. i’m just saying that there is a huge dichotomy between reality and the fiction we are being sold. reality is hard to face. the facts that we are losing species at 1,000-10,000 times the normal rate, that we are destroying around 80,000 acres of rainforest each day, that the production of plastics is projected to double in the next fifteen years, are absolutely mind-boggling. and that’s just a small fraction of the statistics we face.

it’s more than we can comprehend.

it’s more than i even know how to begin to hold. so, after months of trying amidst the resurgence of bone-deep anxiety about the future, i allowed a switch in my brain to flip over. i let go of hope. i gave up my story that we can turn things around, not only because we are basically beyond that point but because it’s saner and, strangely, more productive to consider a whole new way of being human. in some ways, letting go of life as i have known it (and thought it would always be) has been liberating. i’ve had to let my heart break more than it has ever broken before.

the thing is, these are heart-breaking times.

and perhaps that is exactly the point. we all need to let our hearts break. we need to let them break - open. it’s the first step we can take to meet what we’ve created. deep inside we all know that numbing ourselves out to the overwhelming situation we’ve co-created, or at least condoned, has been a huge part of what allows us to continue this global mayhem. what some of us may not know is that, when we are overwhelmed by the feelings associated with trauma (and considering the possibility of extinction is pretty much the most traumatizing thing for anyone), we stop thinking clearly. we lose access to our creativity. we just go about our lives in a “business as usual” fashion.

but this is not business as usual.

the fact that we attune our daily way of living to “business” says so much about how far we have come from our hearts. the fact that we can go on doing pretty much anything without breaking down when we consider the consequences, from getting our nails done to driving our car to the store to burning rainforests for hamburgers, tells me that we have taken a huge detour from our humanity. the fact that any of us can make it through the day without falling into a heap on the sidewalk or losing it at the grocery store is actually what’s insane.

there are things we can do to recover what we’ve lost in ourselves.

basically, humans are good at heart. even here in the hot Paris summer, where the reputation for rudeness runs as high as the temperature, i’ve met wonderful humans. i’ve had heartfelt conversations with locals, immigrants and ex-pats. i was forgiven for my broken French, received with huge smiles and hugs, and invited to sing with street musicians by the canal. we love to love. we are hard-wired for creativity and joy and connection.

we just have to remember to give ourselves permission to feel and express our grief, fear and rage. we have to create spaces to gather and be held in the overwhelming experience of letting go of the control to which we hold so tightly. we have to cry, scream, stomp and be wiling to look crazy. that may be one of the sanest, most productive things we can do right now.

what does this have to do with planting trees?

when we allow ourselves to finally fall apart, we can rest in the deep love we feel for Life Itself. we can allow ourselves to be held by the gravitational hug of this planet. we can come home to who we really are and let ourselves be seen and heard and held by others. we can peel away the layers of perceived protection and estrangement and allow the fresh, new skin of our true selves feel the breeze. and breathe in the air.

trees, along with flowers, hugs, bees and wild spaces, are some of our greatest lifelines.

not only do they support our ability to survive in this fragile slice of live-ability on earth, they reconnect us to what is real. when we allow ourselves to feel how disconnected we have let ourselves become over the years, decades and centuries, we remember how fragile and beautiful we really are. and that we are connected to everything around us. that we are not separate from it.

plant a tree and you feel something awaken inside. plant another and a seed of remembrance is planted in your heart. and as you walk the earth, away from the noise and distraction in your workday world (or in your head), allowing your hands to touch the living soil, smelling the pungency of fresh roots, the hard shell of your forgetting splits. something starts to crack open. working in this way, you start to remember that none of the things you thought were so important matter as much as this moment of regeneration. you start to come home to yourself again... maybe for the first time.

i invite you to start a personal revolution which may just help save us from ourselves. plant a tree. plant ten. plant a thousand. or maybe even a million. it requires little or no permission and it can be scaled to the area in which you live. the results are overwhelmingly positive. get involved and recover your humanity before it’s too late.

here are just a few organizations to learn about re-generating yourself and the earth: