During a recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, a sign titled "Boundaries of Life" caught my eye.
What are the boundaries of life? What boundaries do we set for ourselves and those around us? Do we allow others to encroach on what we need for a rich life? Sometimes relinquishing our needs for others is necessary and the right thing to do, but often we have developed the habit of putting ourselves last, and not speaking out for what we need. We live above the treeline, in the barren places, when we could live in the warmer and gentler forests, nourished by the love of those around us. Our lives needn't be windswept and lonely. By sharing and being assertive about our needs and desires, we garner the bounty of shared visions and goals. We play not just a supportive role, but create a partnership of survival and growth.
Living above the treeline is not always our choice. Circumstances may force us to struggle. Our version of snowdrifts, wind, avalanches and exposure can be illness, job loss or relationship problems. In the mountains, nature forces trees surviving at the highest altitude into twisted shapes called krummholz. We've seen these in the Sandia Mountains just east of Albuquerque where the tree grows with the prevailing winds. On the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, krummholz grows just below the treeline along the ground. The twisted horizontal growth occurs when the normally upright tree tip or leader is blasted by wind-driven ice crystals during the winter. This winterkill of the leader prunes the top of the tree and promotes fuller growth of lower branches.
When we are buffeted by challenging circumstances, we tend to hunker down, lying in the swales and depressions of our daily lives. But we can still survive. The winter storms will prune us and shape us, but fuller growth, even though in a different shape than when we began, will be our reward.