forest for the trees

I've been sitting underneath the idea of trees for quite some time.

It started nearly two years ago. On a trail run with my mom, we reached the top of a particularly steep hill. I looked over the Californian headlands and told her, "I don't know if I'm ready to get married, but I know where I want to propose." Hiking with Asha some months later, we set off onto separate trails as I wanted to get a short run in. Racing through a shaded trail, surrounded by trees, I knew. I met Asha back at the car and I breathlessly uttered "I think we should get married." Months later, I proposed under two redwoods in Muir Woods. This July, we're getting married in a redwood grove. The thread of trees runs through this major development in my life.

I've read The Hidden Life of Trees, a delightful exploration of the depth of story in the forest among the trees. With careful observation, the book reveals drama, community, strength, love, and friendship.

I've remembered how trees are embedded in our great stories. The Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. The tree of knowledge of good and evil. The pervasive expression of the world tree.

I've dwelled on the ubiquity of trees in our idioms. One in particular stands out: you can't see the forest for the trees. This idiom -- that you can be so overwhelmed by individual details that you miss out on the bigger picture -- is particularly rich having read The Hidden Life of Trees. The book is the positive version of the idiom's common negative expression. What that book does is open your mind to the forest through the trees.

It's important work to make story through connecting the details. At the end of day, that's what I hope my writing does: help you see the forest for the trees. Good writing can shine a light on the unknown stories. Alone, no one can expect to illuminate more than a fraction of the forest. Even together, our collective directed curiosity can only serve as an incomplete sketch of the forest we live in. That's because the forest keeps changing and us with it, but that just means that we are never done making the story. We are never done seeing the forest for the trees.