It’s the time of year when I get mad at trees. Normally, for forty-odd weeks of the year, I love trees. I appreciate their beauty, their time-tested grandeur.
Their bright-green vitality or bare-branched endurance.
But right now, I can’t breathe. So thanks a lot, Oak, Hickory, and Mulberry. Thanks for all the pollen in the air.
One nostril has been completely blocked for a day or two. No matter how much I blow my nose, it’s in a state of perma-clog. The other nostril, while sometimes clear, keeps me in suspense.
On the way to yoga class this week, I stopped by Walgreens. As I stood in the Allergy/Cold aisle looking for some remedy I haven’t yet tried, I spotted bottles of Liquid Plumr nearby — haven’t tried that. I ended up buying nose spray “for severe congestion,” or as I think of it, Sinus Drano.
I had signed up for the yoga class before realizing I wouldn’t be able to breathe well. The class was much harder than usual, given that you’re supposed to breathe through your nose.
I’m a yoga beginner, learning something new every time, but when I went to my very first class I kept thinking, “Why are we wasting so much time on breathing? Let’s get to the exercise already.” After a while, I picked up on the idea that coordinating breathing with movement is pretty much what it’s about. I learned that you inhale on lifting or opening movements and exhale while folding or twisting.
When I got to class, I warned the teacher that I was a mouth breather for the day. Rachel understood completely.
Whenever I get congested like this, I think of my friend Julie telling me about her son having a bad cold when he was little. Although he was miserable, he pointed out the bright side: at least he could still breathe out of his mouth. Last night as I tried to fall asleep, I popped a Benadryl and thanked God that at least I could breathe through my mouth.
Until recently, I hadn’t realized how much I take breathing for granted. At some point in the last year, though, I started a new habit. Upon first waking up, I thank God for the air in my lungs. Although my mind soon jumps to other things, I like this new habit of being grateful for that first breath of the day. It’s not promised, after all.
Thinking about breathing leads me to thankfulness for other forgotten things as well, like lungs that work 24/7 without my even thinking about it, the tiny bits of oxygen and carbon dioxide stashed in the backpacks of our red blood cells, the oft-neglected plants in our kitchen that clean the air in our house.
And, most of the time, I’m thankful for the trees that refresh the air outside. Thanks a lot, Oak, Hickory, and Mulberry. (I mean it this time.)
Thank you, Maple, Elm, and Birch.
Thank you, God, for trees. Thank you, God, for air.
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair . . .
-from Joyce Kilmer’s 1913 poem “Trees”