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Scar Coat

Words by Pippa

I’m alone in woodland, looking intently at an ancient hollow oak tree. I stay for hours, through to dusk.  I walk around it. I sit inside its hollow trunk.  I sit and breathe the air it breathes.  I listen.  I feel the earth beneath us and the air around us. 


I am fascinated by the beauty of the many intricate markings on the tree bark and the signs of a long, full life showing up as patterns and wounds that have healed. I feel awe, reverence, joy, gratitude.

I wonder hazily what it would be like to wear my life, my scars and my soul wounds in the way of a tree?  To reach down into the earth with my roots and to stretch up to the light with my branches, to draw in moisture and grow, up and out. To wear my scars like the fissured bark of a tree, no shame, no regret, no disgust, no hatred, no fear, no sadness, no exhaustion…..just  to wear my life like a glorious battle coat, a ‘scar coat’.  A scar coat that protects my back and reflects my life.   What a relief and a release that would be.  What a celebration of a life that would be.  What a dance that would be!


And then to become aware that as I grow, I am also decaying. What if, in the way of a tree, my decline and decay became like the heartwood of a tree, strikingly beautiful and host to more life than when it was young and vigorous?   What a celebration of the little deaths that lead to the big death that would be. What an amazing journey towards elderhood that would be. What a dance that would be!


Back in the world away from the tree I start noticing when I forget what the tree taught me.  I witness holding myself small and cramped because I wasn’t as kind as I could have been.  On another day, I have a physical pain and I hunch over it, shrinking and contracting into it rather than letting the air and the light in to create space and healing and growth.  I see a friend whose shame has cut her off from her true voice and how it makes her afraid of the world and herself. I imagine her scar coat and the glorious beauty of it.  I watch a kind man apologise for expressing his own needs, making himself smaller, less than the other.  He was taught to be polite and thoughtful and his voice became a squeak in the wind.    I watch a bully trying to exercise power over others and he is big with a false, puffed-up pride, not expansive and open like a tree. 

When we face our wounds and vulnerabilities, when we dance them, they can alchemise into something else and find another life….like the heartwood of the tree….


I wonder what your scar coat might look like and how it would feel to wear it, feel it, see it, smell it…... and then dance it into the light and air.  I wonder if you would feel as open and expansive as the tree if you danced in your scar coat?


With thanks to ancient trees and to Clarissa Pinkola Estes "How to be an Elder" for the idea of the scar coat.



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