Monday, March 4, 2013

Inspiration Monday: Life Inside the Banyan Tree

Thomas Alva Edison's famous banyan, Ft. Myers, FL
This is a banyan tree. Banyan trees are fascinating. They are fascinating because I'm 99.7% certain that my brain is actually a tiny banyan tree straining in my skull.

A banyan tree begins its life as a parasitic vine-like plant that uses a combination of charming pick-up lines and sneaky little seeds to dig itself into the cracks and crevices of a naive host tree.

My brain was once a naive host tree, but somewhere along the line, through huge amounts of fiction reading and an overabundance of precocious creative energy, I picked up a pen. Those little book-seeds have gotten into my cracks and crevices. The banyan brain is born.

Once the host tree is well covered in baby banyan, there is not much it can do but sit there and watch it go. It is an overachiever, completely unsatisfied to just be a tree on top of another tree. It must encompass all it surveys.

The Edison banyan tree was the first on U.S. soil.

It grows up and out, twisting, turning, and showing off. It practices growing branches, out and out and out. They keep growing just to see how far they can go. The branches grow so far and fast that the tree loses sight of the ends of them. They are growing on their own without supervision. These branches are wild things in and of themselves. They sag under their own weight. They are heavy, too heavy for any tree, even our overachieving banyan.

Likewise, too often my stories grow too distant and heavy for my overachieving, well-meaning brain.

These branches, mighty though they be, must have support to stand. The brave banyan rushes to work raining down snaky vine-roots that curve and curl their way to the ground where they push themselves under the dirt and slurp up all its nutrients. They grow thick and solid, assuring the branches success on their journey.

The tree carries on this way, this direction and that, throwing down these auxiliary trunks wherever it needs. This is why the banyan is sometimes called a "walking tree." 

The story threads that zoom off from my banyan brain in directions unbidden can only live if they have something to hold them up and connect them to the ground. This is where I find myself struggling sometimes. It's easy to think up scenarios, but having scenarios that can suck nutrients straight from the ground (reality) and use them to grow strong and prop up the idea can be a little harder to come by. I continue to try. I'm raining down little trunk-vines every which way hoping that some of them take root. I keep walking.

If the banyan is given the room to grow, it will encompass acres of land. It becomes more than a tree, it is a Tree, a forest of Tree, an entire woodland that is made of one sprawling, interconnected, single Tree.

If the idea is given room to thrive, it becomes more than an idea, it is Story, pages of Story, an entire tome of Story that is made of one sprawling, interconnected, single Idea.

So, fellow creatives, what do you see when you sit under the banyan tree? Can you lose yourself in it, dropping breadcrumbs so you remember how to pull yourself out? Maybe you tag every branch and measure it as it grows, trimming any willful sprout that dares to stick out an unwanted tendril.

Maybe your tree is not a banyan at all, but a steadfast oak, or a hard-worn and ever-verdant pine. Write about your tree, maybe even draw it. Close your eyes and smell the sap, listen to the leaves rustling up new thoughts. What kind of fruit does it bear--and is it sweet or sour?

Personally, I'm finding that I like to sit in the middle of my idea-banyan and marvel at it, full of awe and nerves at the sheer magnitude of the human imagination. It reminds me that the struggle is worth it, because the struggle is what it takes to get those roots on the ground and to keep on walking over all the earth.

No comments: