Several weeks ago a powerful storm swept through Rocky Mountain National Park. Two weeks later, we went hiking in the area, and we came across a devastating scene of absolute chaos and destruction. Hundreds of huge pine trees littered the ground, crisscrossing over each other, their broken limbs strewn everywhere. Most of the trees were literally ripped from the ground by their roots. Some trees that may have survived the storm that swept through the forest were split in two by the crashing force of the other trees that succumbed to the gale force wind.
What once was a beautiful forest of tall, majestic trees was now an eerie field of debris and destruction. Along with the broken branches, uprooted trees, exposed roots and huge craters in the ground, I saw several deadly nature made wooden missiles scattered everywhere. Their tips had points so perfectly sharpened it appeared as though they had been carefully whittled by a master wood carver. I cringed to think of the damage one of these weapons might have caused as it came flying through the air during the melee of the storm.
I have heard that pine trees have shallow roots. Simply because a tree appears to be big and strong, tall and mighty, it does not mean that it can withstand the power of a storm if it’s roots are shallow. The truth is, we are a lot like those trees. It doesn’t matter how big, strong and tall we are; if we don’t have the flexibility to bend under the onslaught of life’s storms, we will break. If our roots are shallow, we will be taken out. If we don’t have the resources to help support our neighbor when they come crashing down, or are unable to get out of their way, they will take us down with them.
The good news is that we have the capacity to change through the plasticity of our nervous system. Flexible strength is far more healthy and functional than rigid strength. It is important to learn how to be flexible so we can spring back when the storms hit. It’s important to develop strong roots so we cannot be uprooted. It’s important to get out of the way and deflect the blow if somebody next to us is crashing down. Maneuvering through the forest of life is not about being big, tall, and strong. It is about having the resilience, spirit, resources and ability to spring back, recover, grow and flourish.
So,if a tree does fall in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? I’m pretty certain that the symphony of destruction that roared through the forest the day that the trees fell was unparalleled to anything I have heard in my lifetime. But, I guess we’ll never know.
Be healthy, strong and flexible!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP