BHFH Digest: Tree Rings

Residents enjoy a hike in the Middlesex Fells as part of our Spring Retreat. Photo Credit: Ethan Rye

May 17, 2022 | Jen Higgins-Newman, BHFH Program Director

“There is no measuring with time, not even a year matters, and ten years are nothing. To be an artist means: to neither reckon nor count; to ripen like the tree, which does not rush its sap, and stands firm in the storms of spring, without anxiety that summer may not come after. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there. As if eternity lay before them, so carelessly silent and vast. I learn it daily, learn it with pain, am grateful for it: Patience is all!

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The first weekend of May, BHFH residents had our Spring Retreat! The theme was actually Re-Tree-T, with an emphasis on Tree Rings specifically. 

You can’t see a tree’s rings from the outside — just the bark it needs to weather the current season. But underneath, the tree’s ring tells a rich story about the life it has lived, and what it has weathered (literally). So this retreat, our theme was about helping us understand that we all have our own version of tree rings, and often those aren’t visible from the outside. We used the quote above from Rainer Maria Rilke as part of an initial meditation with some cuttings of tree branches where the rings were visible. 

Our House Retreats are an opportunity for residents to both go inward as well as build deeper connections with each other. This retreat, we gave residents several exercises that were communal — insofar as we did them together, and reflected on our experience of the activities together — but also interior. For example, on Friday evening, we walked the labyrinth on the Rose Kennedy Greenway here in Boston (if you’re local, here’s more information). 

Residents walk a labyrinth in downtown Boston during Spring Retreat. Photo credit: Ethan Rye. 

If you were to think about your life like the trunk of a tree, what do your tree rings tell you about what you’ve weathered? How can you use that knowledge to understand where you are now? 

In Light and Community, 


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