When the Bough Breaks
“Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.”
This lullaby, written over 250 years ago was probably sung to many of us in our infancy. Many of you probably sang it to soothe your restless child to sleep. It seems an innocent sweet little song people sing while never giving thought to what it means or it’s origin. I’m using it as a backdrop for this post to give you a mental picture of where I’m going.
This is where this post turns, so if I lose you here, I understand. Also if you intend to sing this song to a sweet child sometime in the future or you really love that it has been a comfort to you or others in the past, you may want to skip this post. I am not going to go into where the lullaby came from, but I do want to concentrate on one phrase “when the bough breaks”.
A bough is a strong section or main section of a tree. It’s a branch that comes directly off the trunk of the tree. A bough is usually considered stronger than a limb. Limbs grow off of the bough and are thinner and weaker than the bough branch.
Knowing about what a bough is creates a mental picture from the song of a bough breaking and a cradle falling violently to the ground, which is a terrifying thought, but if you think of it logically, that’s exactly what is happening. It’s not just a limb breaking, it’s the strong arm of the tree: the very structure that holds the limbs that hold the leaves. Such a catastrophic event could destroy the tree, cradle, and baby. Not such a sweet lullaby now is it?
Now to the reason for this post. It’s not really about a sweet baby falling to the ground. I mainly used the lullaby metaphorically to make a point and to give you a mental picture.
Often I have envisioned myself in the top of a tree deep in a forest. It’s usually on the side of a mountain or a deep valley but always with a view of a sunset and a breeze blowing on my face. It’s where I go to be alone in my head. It’s where I feel safe. (I know, “safe” in the top of a tree? but stay with me.)
Having a gentle breeze blowing on my face as I look out over the vastness of God’s creation is healing. The peace and quiet of just myself and the air is freedom. It’s where I can really take a minute and clear my head and just be one with the world and it’s creator.
As I look out I notice there is a cloud just over the horizon. Then there are two. All at once I realize a storm is heading my way, but I can’t climb down. It’s too late for that. So I get a strong grip, and I hold on tight. The wind picks up, and the tree begins to sway. The peace and calm of just moments ago quickly turn to anxiety and fear. The tree begins to sway slightly, but then begins to lean farther to the left and then right. Now it seems to go in circles. I lose any sense of direction because all I see are dark clouds, wind, and rain. I begin to hear limbs snapping all around me, so I hold on even tighter to the point that my own limbs are going numb. The storm gets stronger and more violent. Suddenly the bough breaks; it snaps beneath me. It happens so fast. Before I can even blink, I am falling from what was my safe peaceful perch towards the cold hard distant ground…
There was a time when I could climb into that metaphorical tree to just sit and watch a sunset until it was time to go. I could take a little time when life got hard and just go hide in the tops of the trees. It was a place to heal and be free. Now though the wind is blowing before I even make my accent. Yet I still climb hoping for peace at the top. It’s like I climb into a storm hoping my presence will calm its gale.
But it doesn’t.
And now the bough has broken. I’ve hit every branch on my way down. It’s seems it has taken longer to hit the bottom than it took to climb to the top. As I hurl toward to bottom I ask myself: What lies at the base of this tree trunk? Are the limbs even helping to break my fall? Am I hurt? Will I be sore? Will my excruciating pain be bearable? Am I to survive? Am I already dead?
I don’t think I’ve hit the bottom yet, so I don’t know the answers to those questions. What I do know is that the bough has broken beneath me. I am falling toward an uncertain ground. Will there be something there to catch me? I am not sure. But I am getting closer to the bottom. And I will soon find out.
*Please understand this is a metaphorical (and comical) picture of the emotional/mental journey I have been on. I only share in order to continue to help myself and possibly others to navigate towards a healthy state of being.