Vulnerability and Growth
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
I don't like feeling vulnerable. It scares me. But the more I learn about wood, the more I realize that if I'm ever going to grow I have to allow it. Here's what I mean:
If you want to build a cabin out of clean logs you have to harvest the trees in the summer. But if you want to cut a round section and make, say, a clock with the bark still attached, harvest it in the winter.
In the summer, the inner bark becomes an interstate, carrying water up and sap down. Water is lifted from the soil up to the leaves, photosynthesized into sugar-bearing sap, and then dropped down to feed the meristems. These meristem cells then reproduce, expanding the tree upward and outward. This is how a tree grows.
In the winter the highway shuts down. Dormancy hardens the outer layers to guard the tree from harsh elements. Growth is traded in for protection.
So the bark of the summer-gotten log peels cleanly with little effort. The skin of the winter log, however, clings tightly.
The growth of the tree, then, requires that it make itself vulnerable. During the growing season its skin is easily damaged. Animals and bugs and humans can break it easily.
Growth always requires vulnerability. For a tree, or for a person. In order to let the life-giving, growth-making stuff pass through us, we have to open ourselves up to hurt. We have to soften our skin.
It’s scary to look at the stuff in ourselves we don’t want to look at. It’s risky to let a new person in. It’s costly to change habits. It’s frightening to expose long-held beliefs to undeniable new truths. But these are the things that help us grow. There is no other way.
The trees are teaching us that to grow at all we have to be vulnerable.