Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
Over the years I’ve masked my preference of introversion and learnt to masquerade as an extrovert in my career and in social settings. People who know me well know I prefer staying in and curling up with a good book than being the life and soul of the party. But to see me in social and work settings it would be hard to see through this. The paradox is that even though I get a buzz being with people I also can easily get over stimulated.
Don’t get me wrong I can be the life and soul of the party and I know how to have a good time but none of this would be happening if it wasn’t for the world of introversion I submerge myself in on a regular basis.
For years I’ve been enjoying solo dinners and trips to the cinema on my own. I’m an expert on taking days off and hiking around London where I was born and live and hanging out in many of the wonderful green spaces that fill up the London landscape. But one of the things I love most about being an introvert is hanging out with some of my favorite trees dotted around the London area.
I’ve held this love of trees from childhood. This love of trees was re-awakened in the 1990’s when I read a book, Tree Wisdom by Jacqueline Memory Patterson. This book reminded me of how much the introvert in me has subconsciously sought out the company of trees at different times in my life.
One particularly synchronistic event in my late thirties left an impact on me. I sat having lunch with a friend one summer afternoon under the shade of a small tree. As we were getting ready to leave I noticed a plaque next to the tree we had sat under that informed the reader that the tree whose company we were in was an ‘Elder’ tree. For no logical reason I could connect with at the time I scribbled down notes about the tree on a piece of paper which then sat on my desk for months.
Around the same time I became really interested in reading and researching more about the legends and myths associated with many of the trees we live with. This grew into a bit of a passion. Months later on a visit to my local library I came across a book of surnames. When I leafed through the book to search for the meaning of my surname ‘Holder’ I discovered that the name ‘Holder’ was the name given to people who lived near or close by to Elder trees.
Walking into the presence of some trees can be like walking into the hush silence and reverence of a church or a cathedral. I love the openness and non-judgmental nature of trees, which is an essential quality for nurturing introversion.
One year during a difficult time I would spend time every day under the watchful eye of a huge evergreen oak. This tree became my daily refuge and sanctuary each morning after my run. In its company I felt I could be myself without pretence. I could talk and the tree would listen and in the silence I could hear the whispering of my own voice echoing back at me.
I loved visiting and spending time with Sanctuary as I eventually named this tree, especially in the early mornings before the park became busy with dog owners and commuters on their way to work. And even though I no longer live in the area close to Sanctuary I still make time to visualize and connect with my memories of my time with her or when I can as a special and often necessary treat I jump in the car and go and visit her.
Over the years I’ve adopted many trees across South London with whom I spend quiet time with. When I feel really spent I head to the wilds of the ancient and splendid tree specimens in Richmond Park. Being in the company of these old trees instantly calms me down and recharges my batteries. Whether I’m simply tracing my fingertips across the ridges of the trees bark or feeling the arch of my back resting against a solid trunk, I find myself connected back to source.
When I’m in need of inspiration I head to Kew Gardens. Kew more tame than Richmond has it’s own magic. Late this summer I wandered under the huge canopy of a sprawling Cedar tree and sat under her enormous branches for a good hour or more in a sort of trance like state daydreaming. I didn’t write, didn’t text or read, just sat quietly enjoying the peacefulness and absorbing the energy and vibration of the moment. I left a different woman.
When I can’t physically be in contact with trees I turn to images of trees on my desktop or I stick images of trees in my journals and notebooks. Then when I need an introversion hit I flip to a page or tree image on my desktop and carry out a form of visual meditation. My friends and family know just how much trees mean to me and feed my introversion by sending me photo’s, images and articles about trees they encounter on their travels.
I even have a spiritual tree on the Caribbean island of Barbados where my Mum now lives that nurtures my introversion. The story of my discovery of this tree is too long to tell here. But she’s a huge, robust, majestic, African Baobab tree. This ancient monument of a tree is reported to be over a thousand years old. Legend has it that this tree seeded from seeds carried across the Atlantic by African slaves.
During our yearly family vacations to Barbados the busy social nature of our holiday soon has the introvert in me gasping for a visit to the Baobab. When I find myself becoming weary of all the eating out, the beaches and meeting up with friends and in need of some time alone I set off on a solo visit to the Baobab.
I am in awe of this tree’s history. Of how much she has witnessed, the stories and secrets she holds. Her mystic rubs off on me and stimulates my own creative juices, imagination and wonder. I can spend hours just walking around her huge girth and taking selfies to my hearts content. I get lost in time when I am with my Baobab.
To me being an introvert helps me be an extrovert in the world particularly with certain aspects of my work as a coach and a trainer and as someone who is a public speaker. Committing to time alone is not only good for my spirit and soul but makes me a better and nicer person to be with. Time alone feeds my work on so many levels.
Introversion is the current that provides flow and form to my writing and creative expression. I appreciate the company of trees and the mirror they provide of just being themselves. Trees help me appreciate why it’s so important to protect the introverted side of my personality.
The metaphor of solitary trees is not lost to the world of introversion. I think the German novelist Herman Hesse says it best in his book, Wandering, where he writes about his love of trees, “And even more I revere them when they stand alone.” And the final words go to Winston Churchill who is credited with the following quote, “Solitary trees if they grow at all grow stronger.”