The trip to Amsterdam was an utter failure. I’d made it into the city, found the hostel and checked in. But I could only stay there for one night as I’d only booked one night. That was the result of some half-baked thinking. I thought that I’d get there, check the hostel wasn’t a disaster, then book accommodation for the rest of my stay. That didn’t work. Where I was, and every other hostel in Amsterdam, was booked up, and I didn’t have the budget for a hotel. I had nowhere to stay, so I decided to capitulate.
I headed back to the airport that very same night, annoyed, but taking some comfort from the fact that at least I’d entertain a few people with the story of my non-trip.
Whilst sat in the airport, waiting for the night to pass, I did some sketches. I was thinking about tattoos. On one page I sketched out a tree. It had no leaves on it. But there were small buds on some of the branches. A year or two later, whilst clearing out some notebooks, I came across this sketch. It was eerie because I’d got a tattoo on my chest, and the artist’s sketch that ended up on my body looked startlingly similar to what I had sketched and forgotten about.
When I got the tattoo, I had a loose conception of what it represented. Originally, it was about strength and growth. But over time, what it means to me has both expanded and been refined. After all, there’s so much associated with the image of trees in different cultures. They’re associated with knowledge, with time, with the passing and changing of seasons, with strength, with resilience, with many things and ideas. So it’s almost impossible not to build on the original edifice of meaning.
As I was thinking about tattoos this morning, wondering why people etch words and images permanently into their skin, I came up with another meaning for the tree on my chest: A tree grows in two directions; up and down. The higher it goes, the deeper it delves. The tallest trees have the deepest roots.
And I suppose that’s what I’m coming to understand about my life. The more I learn, the better I get, the higher I climb, the more important it becomes that I put down roots. That I stay connected to the ground from which a part of me is trying so desperately to escape. Because a tall tree with shallow roots, first, is liable to fall in a storm, and second, struggles to get the nutrients it requires.
That’s my objective; grow tall and delve deeper. Reach for the clouds, but stay firmly anchored to the ground. Feel the sun, the wind, the rain and the cold in my branches, but remember to revel in the dirt.