The Forest for the Trees

I realize it has been a little while since I have updated my blog, but that being said, I wanted to post something refreshing to give it a good basis for my upcoming posts.

Some of you may be aware that I recently completed an expedition of sorts with my two children, traveling across the country and back, consisting of many state and national park tours, camping trips, day trips and hiking excursions of some of the most beautiful places our amazing country has to offer. It was through these experiences that I was compelled to begin this blog. To chronicle my experiences from my own personal perspectives, and from the perspectives of a single mother traveling with two children, and to share with others the incredibly enlightening experiences encountered along the way, has been and still is the goal of this blog.

Therefore, I feel it necessary to share with you what I am about to divulge. I feel it necessary to say that yoga is a huge part of my life, and through yoga, I have been introduced to the concept of living in the moment, the concept of striving to achieve balance and peace and harmony, and the concept of meditation and appreciating the breath and the vast benefits that outpour from this simple daily practice that I have come to accept.

While reading a book that my dad introduced me to, I became introduced to the art of meditation. A difficult concept to learn, as many of you may know, is that through meditation, one can come to appreciate each moment life brings your way, to learn to appreciate the good with the bad, and to realize that without the very basic act of breathing, none of this (life, as we know it) would even be possible. From here, I began to read more about different types of meditation, and at just the right time, I became a recipient of emails courtesy of Yoga Journal magazine, offering a 28-day guided meditation regime that promised to change the perspective of my daily outlook on life and therefore my life by simply practicing this act of meditation on a regular basis. I loved the idea of it, and embraced it fully, though I immediately realized that meditation with two young children was a task in and of itself, and would require extra planning and a light heart, for when meditation was interrupted by “life” so to speak, carrying on with the rest of my day was still expected to be done so with a positive outlook, even when the goal for my meditation (most times, just to finish the full ten minutes of uninterrupted, undistracted silence) was not achieved.

It was not until the second half of a trail half marathon, that I was running with my dad while in California this summer, about halfway through my 28-day journey of meditation, that I reached the following epiphany. While running through a dense, moist forest of redwoods and eucalyptus, and subsequently reaching a treeless, sunsoaked, dry sloping meadow, the old familiar, but never really pondered, cliche, came to mind: “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” All my life, I had heard people make reference to this phrase, and had never really analyzed it to realize what it truly meant. Until now.

Finally, that overused phrase began to make sense. When “you can’t see the forest for the trees,” it implies that one is focusing too intently on the minor details, “sweating the small stuff”, to really see the bigger picture. A good example of this would be that, in the process of preparing for a major event or outing with your family, such as embarking upon a cross country road-hiking-camping trip with your children, you get hung up on minor details like, “Oh no, all the headlamps are out of batteries”, or, what if we forget something critical, or spend days worrying about the inevitable weather that you can’t do anything about on some future date during a trip you have planned, or stressing about minor details like the what-if’s. In this case, you would clearly be focusing on the trees, and not the forest, the forest being the bigger picture: spending an epic, once-in-a-lifetime (for some) adventure, and enjoying irreplacable quality time with your family in the grandest of places. These are examples of when not seeing the forest for the trees could really prove to be a problem.

However, on this particular run, on a part of the trail where I had fallen perfectly between other runners, in a place where I was seemingly alone, I began to think harder on this concept. I began to break it down. While passing through this beautiful, mystical forest that was comprised of individual trees, all different and unique in their own respects, only to arrive on a sloping trail in a meadow void of trees altogether, I was elated at the sight of a single tree looming up ahead on the trail. While just a single tree on the horizon, it would eventually give way to another section of trail once again enveloped by moist, dense forest, such a contrast from the microclimate from which I had just emerged. It was then that I realized that sometimes, it is in fact good to not see the forest for the trees.

Sometimes, we need to actually take a closer look at those trees. Those individual trees, though similar to those standing near it, are their own unique beings, and while some are the same as others, are still different in their own rights. It is the density, the togetherness, of each of those individual trees, that makes up the forest through which I was running. Quite similarly, it is the sum of those tiny details, those individual moments, those unique mishaps and trials and errors, that together make up the bigger picture. These are the things that often get overlooked: the small things in life. The time when the headlamp went out, and we realized (and cursed the fact) that we forgot extra batteries, and had to improvise, and find unique ways to attach flashlights to our clothes to appease everybody (because brother can’t have a headlamp if sister can’t have one), and when the freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches decided to crumble in the bags in our packs, resulting in tears and disappointment, until we decided to have freeze-dried ice cream soup (served with a spoon out of the foil pouch), are the times when the “little things” that get you down, can ruin the bigger picture of things: the times when you can’t see the forest for the trees. But then. Look at it this way: THOSE are the “trees”, the “little things” that make up the entirety of the trip, and without such little occurrences, what would there even be to make up this bigger picture, this grand trip of ours?!

Sure, we will have mishaps, and notes to ourselves on what to do differently next time. And that is exactly why I carry a waterproof notebook and pen in my backpack when we embark upon these adventures. In each journal entry of our adventures, is a page that is titled “What to do/bring next time” followed by the reasons why! However, it is each and every one of these little instances, these mishaps, these wonderful happenings and discoveries, these individual trees, that make up the whole of our irreplacable time together, our trip, our memories, OUR FOREST.

So in conclusion, I’d like to shed light on the reverse aspect of this all to often heard saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Please, do me a favor, and pay close attention to those trees whenever possible. But do so in a positive light. Because without those trees, there would be no forest.

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