Amongst rolling golden hills and between fog-covered coastal mountains are the ancient oaks of Los Altos Hills, California. Nestled sporadically over great and endless knolls, devoid of life during dry summer months, the oak trees of Los Altos Hills – so numerous around my home – speak to me in an unheard language. Like any person I am the sum of my successes and failures but unlike the masses I have heard the language of the oaks – I found meaning in their forgotten voice.
When my expectations are met by failure and my eyes burn in tears of sorrow, I set my gaze upon the oak and am entranced by its massive trunk – wider than my car – and am spellbound by their gnarly branches – twisting at unmanageable angles to find the sun that gives it life. Lost in the oak’s song I feel wind on my face and watch gusts bend the tree until it nearly breaks; I hear lightening strike its core, splitting the trunk in two and watch as it grows on – its beauty only intensified by its scars and deformities. As my thoughts meander through the oak’s past, I see my shortcomings in a new light – bad test grades only make me smarter, losses on the lacrosse field only aid in my next victory – and when the trance is broken my problems ail me no longer.
Upon success I sit in the tall golden grass between the oaks’ trunks and listen to their songs yearning for the time when artificial sweeteners did not contaminate the fleeting taste of life’s cake. Their wisdom tells me of the fullness, the potential of life. Like the existence of the oak, everything I experience – positive or negative – success or failure – represents to me a deeper relevance as part of my journey, part of my growth, part of my own mane of gnarly branches searching for what makes me thrive. Every experience my life brings me help mold my shape rather than merely fade away – another meaningless accomplishment.
Life in Los Altos Hills has given me the rare opportunity to take on the shape of its mystic oaks. I can weather a storm, yet it is what I can find within that storm – the wisdom I gain from its struggles – that makes me who I am.