“You believe what, Mom?” We were talking about native religions and animistic traditions. I had just pointed out that while such beliefs are often referred to as ancient or, more disparagingly, as primitive, many people today still hold such beliefs and incorporate them into “modern” spirituality. And, I had just glanced out our window at one of the many gorgeous oaks that blessedly shade our home and said, “Like, I believe that these trees around here are protecting us.”

I admit, I felt the immediate need to backpedal a bit, and said, “Well, what I mean is, the way all of them are growing with us and around us, the way they hold tight to the earth underneath us, it just feels like a good energy all around.” They gave me a gentle Whatever look and proceeded to pictures of a Native American Buffalo Dance and of Zeus in a very bad mood.

They asked smart questions. They stayed engaged. Then, we were done and they ran off. I looked out the window again. I stared at that 200 year old oak tree, here long before Austin was. I thought of all of the voices that have passed by and under and around and through that tree. I thought of all of the shelter taken here on this beautiful high ground, most recently by us. I thought of that big snowstorm a few years ago, and that strange wonderful feeling of being reminded, in our modern world, that nature is still, and ever will be, overwhelming and very uncontrollable. I remembered, most of all, one long gorgeous limb on that tree, 15 feet high and reaching out at least 50 feet. The snow, piling ever heavier everywhere, bent and bent that branch. I so feared it snapping. But, I watched as slowly, slowly, it gracefully bent all the way to the ground. For three days it waited, heavy laden but strong. Then, I watched it slowly return, high and happy.

That moment, at a difficult time in my life, gave me strange strength and assurance. I began a strange habit of hugging trees, literally. Kissing them, too… along with other habits I was initiating, like a meditation practice and more. And, difficult times got better. Much better.

Right then I realized that if I am to do this right with my girls this year, backpedaling shall not be an option. They often ask me what I believe. I must honor their questions will full answers, even answers that provoke the dreaded “Mom!!! You are embarrassing me!” response. And, I must provide for them the means to get full answers from many others besides myself. We should also watch Disney’s Pocahontas again soon. That Grandmother Tree really rocked!