POV: Timber.

Friday, March 14, 2014

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories. 

One afternoon, while living on a farm in New Zealand years ago, I was standing in the middle of a field in rain boots, chicken feed in hand. All was still. Then, suddenly, there was rustling. Then, a crack. Then, in one stunning, staggering moment, a tree fell. 

It was tall and thick and had heavy branches that hung low to the ground, and when it fell it made the sort of spectacular tree-falling sound I’d heard only in movies about the destruction of the rainforest.

I looked around, wondering whether anyone had seen. But no one was there. Goats that had been grazing nearby flicked their tails and stepped to the side, their eyes darting only briefly skyward. 

When this happened, I was midway through a month-long WWOOFing journey, farm-hopping on the country’s North Island in exchange for meals and a place to sleep. I was also twenty-three and at a crossroads. An important relationship in my life was ending. I was unsure of what kind of work to pursue, or whether to stay in LA or move to San Francisco (in the end, of course, I did neither of those things). In New Zealand, I was on my own and learning new things every day. Still, I occasionally wondered whether the trip was just a very expensive way of stalling.

As my time there went on, I became no stranger to fallen trees. One day, shortly after I arrived at a small family farm in Ahuroa, I spent hours combing the property with a wheelbarrow, picking up branches that had fallen in a storm. I don’t remember much about that day except that the branches were heavy - shockingly heavy - and that they required both hands to lift. 

Years later, I’d stumble upon photos of windswept trees on the southernmost tip of New Zealand and feel surprisingly emotional. They’d encountered some sort of storm. And though they’d bent, they’d yet to buckle.


This past Tuesday, I spent the afternoon in the park. It was 65 degrees, which, after weeks of temperatures in the 20s and 30s, felt as warm as peak summer. My friends and I joked about posting a photo of ourselves on Instagram, smiling in the sun. It was a funny thought because instead of the springtime euphoria we’d hoped to feel, we were anxious. 

February and March have been chaotic months for nearly everyone we know. Serious relationships have ended. Jobs have been lost. Friends have left the city.

These things are happening suddenly, and constantly, and seemingly without warning. In a strange way, I’m starting to feel accustomed to the shock of small traumas. 

What is there to do when trees fall? 

Do your best to move out of the way, I think. Clear debris. Resume living.

You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, here. Thank you so much for reading!


Kim Baise said...

beautiful post shoko!i love to collect the branches from fallen trees.. i have piles of different shapes of sticks in the backyard. yes agreed, feb. and march have been really harsh and trying. looking forward to spring and new growth!

Steph said...

Wow...what an exquisite rendering of your experience. Those tree photos also made me emotional! Amazin! One of my favourite places in the world looks a bit like that - the open waters of Georgia Bay (part of the Great Lakes, attached to Lake Huron), where there are many tiny rocky islands with trees that stubbornly resist intense winds). There's a definite metaphor there. :)

sherry said...

Yap! You've said it. It's life - clear it and move on. We should go to New Zealand one day together. I can show you so many wonders nature offers. It's a magical country. Love you post as always.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Clear debris. Resume living.

Yes. Yes. Sometimes you cannot mourn the loss of something or someone, whether by death or simply the end of a relationship, romantic or otherwise. Sometimes all you can do is let it go and move on as quickly as possible in order to survive.

burntfeather said...

I like the conclusion, I think it's maybe the only way for personal survival :) Very cool that you did woofing in New Zealand!

PoshDrosofila said...

So beautiful your writing and your experiences.

Raquel R. said...

Your POV’s always make me think about things in a different way. Lovely.

Tiffany said...

feeling accustomed to the shock is a good thing. this is pretty much how my last year felt, only i may have not moved from under the trees that swiftly. one thing is for sure, you notice the incidents later on and life truly seems amazing just because of those sudden changes. if only they were a bit easier to deal with...

Wren Brock said...

I love the way you describe life changes in that last sequence. Life is much like that. I am 23 and at a crossroads, as well. But I've been told that is typical for this age range. The early 20s is the hardest. Except that I'm going on 24, practically in my mid-20s and I am feeling more and more anxious because I fearful of the crossroads extending on and on and on and that will be all that my life is--standing at a crossroads.

Kathy said...

I often wonder when I will become accustomed to the shock of small traumas, only to realize (sometimes weeks or months later) that how I handle the aftermath of those traumas is where I've grown and changed. These realizations are startling in their own way, every time.

Listen to Laura Mvula's "She". Your last few lines reminded me of her song :-)

Ione said...


Shoko said...

Thank you all so much!

Kathy, I'll listen to it ASAP :)

katharina said...

yes. thank you. what is there to do when trees fall? i recently read this phrase 'embrace uncertainty' and it stuck. let go, clear debris, resume living, embrace uncertainty. have an amazing time in sri lanka!

angela said...

Very good advice. Get out of the way. and be sure to take care of you.



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