Monday, November 21, 2011

The Power of Life

I grew up in Northern California. It has the perfect climate for an abundance of life, including trees, birds, mammals, flowers, etc. After growing up in California, I went to the University of Michigan where squirrels and birds frolic in the plethora of trees. But then I went to the University of Arizona for law school.

Prior to relocating to Tucson, I had only been there twice. I love the beauty of the rocks, but over time living there, one thing became abundantly clear – I missed trees. The lack of trees started to grate on me. It seemed almost too metaphorical for law school and the legal profession.

But then I opened my eyes. I started taking yoga seriously in law school and started taking it very seriously my third year and while studying for the bar exam. It was then that I noticed how amazing the desert really is. Life exists where all reason says it should not. My favorite example is the Ocotillo cactus, which people often cut down and use to make fence posts. Rationality suggests that cutting down the cactus would kill it, but each spring these fence posts come alive and grow leaves and even flowers. It is incredible.

Living in New Zealand since January has been healing for me. This country does not lack for trees. So it has been easy for me to forget the desert lessons, but last week, I got my reminder . . . this time on a volcano. If people did not know before February, they now know that New Zealand is earthquake prone. What is less well known, however, is that its largest city, Auckland, sits on a few (read 52) volcanoes. I’m starting to wonder why anyone lives in this country . . . but I digress.

Last week, I visited the most recent eruption. It is an island called Rangitoto, which was created 600 years ago when the volcano erupted. It is an island, therefore, made purely of lava. There is no dirt. There were no trees. There was no life.

Today, Rangitoto has the largest Pohutekawa (a NZ tree that flowers at Christmas time, so it is called the Christmas Tree) Forest in the country. I was expecting a day walking on lava. Instead, I got a day walking through lush forest. In fact, the only lava you could really see was in the lava caves and along the road where the trees had been cut down to make the road. There are even NZ fern trees.

A view of the lush landscape on the island looking back to Auckland City.

A view of the crater, full of trees.

A NZ fern tree.

In 600 short years, out of molten lava came a beautiful forest. If the ocotillo cactus is not a great testament to life, the lava forest should be. It may sound cheesy, but I like to think of these examples when life seems incredibly difficult. Sitting in an office all day, devoid of nature, it can be very easy to forget how powerful life and nature can be. It is necessary to step outside and remind ourselves. Yoga is about being present and taking stock of the world around you. Sometimes that is the best way to remember how powerful life can be. Where do you most notice the power of life?


© Rebecca Stahl 2011, all rights reserved.

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