Let me tell you a little secret. I am a bit obsessed with the peeling on the manzanita tree. It’s similar to the attraction you might get after your husband or child gets a sunburn and you see their skin start to flake and peel off. The temptation to “help it along” is very strong in me. I would never touch a scab, but there is something about that flaking skin. So, every summer when we stay in the mountains and I see the manzanitas beginning their annual shedding, I just have to participate. Naturally that got me wondering. I know humans peel after a sunburn, and snakes and other reptiles peel on a regular basis. But why the manzanita? After a little research I realized how I too might benefit from an “annual shedding and letting go.” And perhaps it would be SMART for each of us to consider our own benefits from peeling away certain parts of a life we may have outgrown.
In case you are unfamiliar with a manzanita—sometimes it is called a bush and other times a tree. This evergreen plant grows wild in western North America in mostly semi-arid locations along the Pacific Coast. What makes them particularly striking is their reddish brown to orange smooth bark and unusually twisted shapes. In the spring they have tiny pink blossoms that ripen into green and then edible red berries. Food for animals and birds, these berries were also a staple of many Native Americans.
A characteristic very unique to the manzanita is their smooth bark. Often honey colored brown with red or orange streaks, it grows from the inside out. As a new layer of bark grows within and expands, the outer paper-thin layer begins to crack and peel—like skin. As it curls and sheds it reveals a new green bark underneath that will darken by autumn back into auburn. Because the wood on the manzanita is so uniquely exotic, it makes beautiful furniture and sculptures. But always best to see it growing in the wild.
So what lessons can the manzanita teach us? My research tells me that manzanitas peel to protect themselves against fungus, parasites and any other species attempting to harm them. By staying smooth and slick, they manage to stay healthy, survive and adapt in low water and poor soil conditions. Perhaps we could learn the same? After giving it some thought, I came up with three things I would like to “shed” at this time in my life.
First: I would like to stop taking things so personally—especially relationships. For much of my life I have believed that any time I had a less than positive experience with a friend, relative or even strangers—it was because of something I did (or didn’t do.) For example, for the last year I have been meeting with a couple of friends (on Zoom of course.) Then recently one of my friends said that now with things opening up again, she no longer wanted to keep our schedule. What? What did I do wrong? Did I say something that hurt her feelings? Did I not say something equally important? But rather than beat myself up any more than usual I decided to call her and ask her why she was backing away. And guess what? It had nothing to do with me at all! Right then and there I decided it was time to “shed” that behavior for once and all. I want to realize and remember that the vast majority of the time people do what they do and it has absolutely nothing to do with me.
Second: I want to stop being so compulsive about my blogging schedule. A few weeks ago I started worrying about how I was going to keep up my blogging schedule this summer with the coming road trip we hope to make. When I started this blog over ten years ago I decided along the way that once-a-week on Fridays I would put out a blog post. I have faithfully (or blindly!) kept this schedule all these years—even when it was very difficult. Why? Thom calls it my particular form of OCD. But regardless of why, I know it is my choice and I’m going to be shedding that need at least for the remainder of this summer. While I know some of you have grown to expect and appreciate my devotion, there are likely just as many of you who think I’m crazy. Just know that I’m not going away but instead learning to “flow” with the blogging experience as time goes by.
Third: Let go of even thinking I can control others or the Universe. This is a big one of course but I am reminded time and time again that the only thing (or person) I have any control over is me. Because we hope to do a road trip to British Columbia in a little less than a month, I’ve been anxiously watching the border reopening process like a hawk. But you know what? It hasn’t happened and there is a chance it won’t. Just like with the entire COVID experience, so many of us had to change plans of all sorts. And no matter how much we wanted it to be different—it is changing how and as it needs to. My lesson is realizing that no matter what happens, I’ll be okay and that life is still good. I am reminded over and over again that regardless of the circumstance, what I have the most control over is my attitude and thoughts. And don’t even get me going about the actions of other people!
Now I am sure that there are plenty of other things that I could shed if I take the time to root them out. Like the manzanita, I believe that my shedding will make me healthier within and better able to resist fungus and parasites! As I wrote several weeks ago, it is SMART to remember that nature has a great deal of wisdom to teach us about life—and the manzanita is no different. And I’ll bet that if any of us took the time, we might be able to come up with one or two things each of us could shed this summer.