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My sturdy six-year-old legs always sought adventure. Up, up the hill we went together, behind our house, past the perfume of Mother’s blooming peony garden, past the naked patch of earth where my toddler brother and I had planted acorns the previous fall, past the apple tree I’d slammed into with my Flexible Flyer in the snow, the deep gash in its bark ever reminding me how lucky I’d been. How ecstasy can be cut short with an instantaneous crash into reality.

Up, up we went, my legs and I, back to the base of everything.

With deep lungfuls of warm sunny air, my breathing relaxed as the grass narrowed into a path through the saplings, then widened into a clearing. In the center of the clearing was the old maple tree, its arms spread wide, a wise elder model of mature and welcoming tree-ness. From one gnarled arm hung two lengths of rope and a plank swing, rigged for me by my uncle. How he knew that a private, woodsy swing would be just what I needed, I’d never understood (and perhaps he didn’t, either).

I can still feel the wood, solid against my butt; the rope, rough and scratchy against my fingers; my palms gripping tightly, forgiving of and at the same time in love with the discomfort. Sliding onto the seat, I felt the tree holding my child’s body, my feet dangling unsupported, the trust that came so easily to me when I was young.

The ground swung beneath me as I flew higher and higher, my legs reaching up to infinity, the trees flying past, then back, then past again. The old maple all the while holding me solidly and immovably, the breeze ruffling my hair with affection, gravity allowing for rapturous freedom, yet constant safety as my body again and again fell solidly back into the seat.

That safety, that consistency, that solidness, that support, the clear air and the beauty of the trees, the clouds sliding across the summer sky: this experience is, for me, the foundation of it all. How I’ve always known that it’s okay to relax and trust and let go, because even though people and circumstances can be unreliable and even scary sometimes, there are always things to trust that you can fall back to: the earth, yourself, and your greater Knowing.

Heather Shaff

Heather Shaff is a cyclist, writer, and mom based in Boston. She's fascinated by all things growth, motivation, and learning... and will drop everything for chocolate ice cream.

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