I learned today that archaeologists can tell the age a wooly mammoth was when it died based on the size of its tusks. The tusks, when cut open, reveal layers of rings that signify years of a mammoth’s life.
Trees are much the same, so I’ve been told. Chop down a tree, and count the rings in the wood. Each ring is another year in the life of that tree (a life tragically cut short, in a literal sense, because you just chopped it down out of morbid curiosity).
This is called dendrochronology, which I’m sure roughly means “the study of tree time.”
The youngest, newest layers are found just beneath the bark. As you move back toward the center, it’s like taking a walk backward through the tree’s lifetime.
In the center is the tree in it’s youngest, most narrow state. An infant version of itself, preserved within the body of its present-day form.
I wonder what I would find were I able to cut myself open and walk back through my own layers of self.
After all, the latest, most up-to-date version of me – the one that exists this very moment, that is writing this blog – is only skin-deep.
He is the culmination of layers and layers of life experiences, forming around one another with the passing of time.
At my core is an infant, small and fragile, not yet aware of anything outside of myself.
His whole world is one of sensory overload – he can only know what is directly in front of him. What he sees, feels, and hears becomes his entire world, consumes him. He is selfish, but innocent, for he doesn’t know any better.
The layers that immediately surround him, some of those most deeply buried, are the selves of my early childhood. They view the world through a lens of ideals.
They too, are innocent, and full of wonder. To them, the world is a beautiful place, where good reigns supreme and dreams are infinitely achievable.
Magic is very much real in these layers, where imagination’s power is boundless and free.
The closer I get to the bark, to my current self, the more my layers have been hardened by reality. These selves have felt joy, but also pain. They have known love, but also conflict and loss.
They have become aware that there is abundant darkness and evil in the world. War. Corruption. They are less trusting that the good guys are in charge.
They fear more.
My layers are not independent of one another. Rather, they exist simultaneously. While it can be harder for the layers on the outside to relate to those within, they are not separate beings.
I’m one tree, so to speak.
All that wonder, joy, hopefulness and imagination have not gone away. I just have to dig a little deeper sometimes to harness those parts of myself.
And that’s natural, I think. It’s important to regularly get in touch with your inner child, and to reflect back on your life experiences. To learn from them, lest history repeat itself.