The Tree and the Chainsaw
Did you ever have an idea of how something should look?
And then try to strong-arm it into place using brute force and a twenty-pound sledgehammer?
Did you ever bloody yourself trying to make the details all glittery and golden?
If you said yes, then welcome to my life as a recovering perfectionist!
Because, no matter how much work I do in this particular area, every once in awhile I slip and find myself facedown in a big pile of CRAZY.
Take my first website, for example. (Please)
It was supposed to be called TalktoTree.
So it had to have a tree. Right?
And not just any tree.
But a tree that looked exactly like this.
Because I’ve had this picture pasted in my dream book for almost two decades.
And I still get choked up when I see this girl gazing up at her tree.
I mean, isn’t THIS the conversation we’re all secretly longing for?
I love that sense of child-like wonder, the recognition of magic in
So when it came to the look of my homepage, there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room.
I had to re-create the photo!
And I started right away—downloading maps of city parks, buying a binder to keep myself organized. I made a copy of my ideal photo to take with me for reference. I put bottled water and snacks into my car. Then I packed up my camera and went hunting.
But none of the trees met my criteria.
Week after week I went out.
I logged 21 hours in total—not all at once, but in slow painful chunks. Walking each park one at a time, looking at each tree, evaluating, taking pictures, marking the co-ordinates down on the map.
I guess you could say my attachment was slipping toward the bright lights of obsession.
I saw trees where there weren't any trees. When I closed my eyes to sleep, I saw a network of leaves, the intricate lines matching the veins of my own blood-shot eyes.
I went out again and again. But there was always something not quite right. A house in the background. Or a Goddamned city bench.
Fall was nipping at my heels.
Soon the leaves would start to turn yellow and once that happened . . .
Well, they had to be green.
I narrowed my selection down to three possible candidates.
Finally, painfully, I made my selection and booked the photographer.
I sent her an information packet with detailed instructions.
I rented out a space in the community centre close to the tree so I'd have a place to change my clothes.
I timed the walk, getting it down to the second.
I packed up the rake. (In case there were yellow leaves on the grass.)
I pulled out the extension ladder. (In case there were yellow leaves on the tree).
And then, three days before the photo shoot, I drove down to check on the site.
And here’s what I saw.
Two large branches were gone. Chain-sawed off by city workers only a day before.
I stood staring at the amputee tree.
Maybe I could pose in front of the stump, covering it somehow. Maybe I could bring a shop-vac and clean up all the sawdust from the grass . . .
Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
And then, from somewhere beyond the noise of my thoughts, I felt an opening—my idea of "perfect" gently lifting and sailing away, while my mind kept clutching, trying to pull it back.
That's when I made a conscious decision to let go.
I went home and cancelled the photo-shoot.
I poured myself a cold glass of wine.
Then I talked to a friend, telling her all the gory details.
“It's perfect,” she said, after a good a laugh. “Your tree's more beautiful with the stumps and sawdust.
She thought for a moment.
“We’re all like that, aren’t we? Beautiful with our imperfections. More unique for our stories.”
“Yes,” I said.
“You could write a blog about this,” she said.
The next day, I walked down to the park and looked at my imperfect tree.
A lady was changing her baby’s diaper on the table directly under it. The ground was littered with wood chips and sawdust.
I started to laugh, because it was obvious.
My life isn’t about getting things picture perfect anymore. It’s about seeing the beauty of the present moment.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the magazine finish. I used to work in the home-fashion industry. I’ll always appreciate those things.
It’s just that I want more.
I want room for imperfection. For sawed-off limbs and yellowed leaves.
I want room for the little surprises of the life, the laugh-out-loud humour of the Cosmos.
Because every time I let go of what I think I want, I get something better.
And I’m wishing you the same imperfect perfection.
Now and for always.
Sending you so much love,