Aborigines call the placenta the “Tree of Life”. They say that if you bury it in the ground and plant a tree over it, your child will be a well-behaved teenager. We’ll have to wait about 13 years to see if this is true.
My son, Griffin was born 18 months ago at home, in our rental apartment in Brooklyn. My husband, Nick, really wanted to plant a tree to commemorate his birth. We don’t have a backyard so we decided to plant it in a square of dirt between sidewalk slabs on our street that had been barren for the past 4 years. My dad and Nick purchased a cherry blossom sapling and enlisted the help or our nosy, chain-smoking neighbor to plant the tree (and the placenta) in this patch of land. We didn’t get permission from the City. Considering the magnitude of issues the City of New York deals with daily we thought they wouldn’t mind. We were wrong.
About four weeks after the tree moved into it’s new home, I found it uprooted and flung against the side of our nosy neighbor’s building. It felt like my heart had been ripped out. I ran upstairs crying. “See, this is the kind of thing that only happens in this city!” I sobbed to Nick. “Let’s move to the country where we can plant as many trees as we want!” He hugged me until I stopped crying and then went downstairs to investigate.
He found out that our neighbor saved the tree from the city workers who pulled it out. They said its branches were too low and therefore dangerous to pedestrians. You know what is dangerous to pedestrians? Walking into on-coming traffic with headphones on while texting, but they do that everyday!
Nick pointed out that at least they planted something there- a different kind of tree with higher branches- in a spot that had been a receptacle for cigarette butts. He placed the cherry blossom in a pot and brought it into the breezeway of our building. Then he visited the Parks Office a few blocks from our home. They agreed to plant the sapling in the park for us. Although the tree didn’t bloom the first year, Nick carried a gallon jug of water in the stroller every few days and soaked the ground around it. Our neighbor smoked cigarettes and watered the City’s tree daily with a hose from his garage.
This year when spring finally sprung we witnessed the gorgeous pink blossoms blooming on Griffin’s little tree in the park. My heart cracked open. I could see the perfection of life unfolding in a situation I had once seen as cause for suffering. There was the kindness of my father, our neighbor and the parks department workers, my baby’s father taking wonderful care of a living thing out of the love he feels for our child. And we ended up with not one, but two trees for Griffin.
The Yoga Sutras offer the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam, flipping the meaning of something as a way out of suffering. It took me 18 months, but when I was finally able to do this I felt like I had been freed from my self-imposed sense of separation. If I step back even further I can see that all the trees in the park are there for every one of us to enjoy. We no more own a tree than we own our child. We are simply the caretakers for a little while of a few living creatures in this vibrant ecosystem. And finally, my original thought was actually true. This IS something that would only happen in New York.
For 13 years Elizabeth has practiced and taught yoga and meditation around the globe. She is a Senior Teacher and Teacher Trainer at YogaWorks in New York. Elizabeth is also a writer, life coach and mother. She sees life itself as our greatest teacher, especially in New York City. Visit her website at www.ejneuse.com.