Sunscald. It’s what 2020 would have if it were a tree. I recently learned about sunscalding when I noticed some concerning cracks, splits, and what looked like burn marks, on the bark of a young willow tree I planted in my backyard a year-and-a-half ago. After researching this, it struck me that this particular occurrence in nature can compare to our torrentially difficult year thus far. Mind you, I am not wanting to oversimplify the complex issues we are facing, rather I'm aiming for this analogy to give us pause and perspective. This message is not a political one; it's about stressing the importance of self-care. Before I go any further, let me explain what sunscalding is and why I’m giving you a horticultural lesson (I often appreciate it when nature can be transferable to our lives). Sunscalding occurs in trees due to extreme temperature differences in short periods of time. For example, in winter, the tree can get warmed by the sun during the day, which can interrupt dormancy. This can happen especially in late winter/early spring, only then to have the warmth torn away in the freezing temperatures at night. Cracks occur at a (cambium) cellular level and are not visible or detected, as it is contained below the bark until the expansion occurs from frost. 2020 didn’t begin catastrophically. It began for us like how it began for the tree, warming from the sun and awakening from dormancy to fresh year. Then the pandemic hit like a harsh frost, causing initial underlying cracks. And while it mostly felt like everything was bad news after that, there were some weeks that felt better than others, which, in this analogy, the milder weeks would contribute to more warming. But then the final frost hit with severity. Chaos and violence left some pretty gnarly cracks in our year, our selves, and our nation. Now we find ourselves traumatized in (nearly) the middle of our year. Winter has long passed and just like the sunscalded tree, the cracks are now deep wounds visible to all. This is alarming, scary, draining, and heartbreaking. If the year itself is sunscalded, then so are we as communities and as individuals. We each carry our own wounded cracks unique to our lives from the horror we have experienced and/or witnessed. Our lives today look very different from how they did before the beginning of this new decade. And these visible changes become more apparent not every once in a while, but every day. You can feel it in the new normal of your routines and you can see it in yours and your loved one’s faces. It's hard to move at all without feeling the pangs of this year's cracks. The thing about sunscalded trees is that the best method of reconstruction is through self-healing. As long as they remain healthy, they can heal by forming calluses around the wound and those calluses make them tougher. In our case, we must make choices to get or remain healthy to be able to heal, even on the same grounds as a pandemic and ongoing chaos. Healing begins with us similarly to the way we care for a sunscalded tree, by supplying water and nutrients at the base and applying protective wraps at the bares spots (next winter). This is recharging. This is self-care. If you don’t choose to recharge, what you’re left with is a vulnerable weakened state leaving you susceptible to the turmoil seeping deeper through your cracks while you’re in survival mode. All you're then left with is a reflex reacting with raw emotion and that rarely is the best choice. We owe it to ourselves, our friends, our families, our communities to be better and stronger. Even in a difficult landscape with a harsh climate, sunscalded trees can heal and live long and healthy lives. So can you. But it has to start with you stepping away momentarily from time-to-time to focus on healing through recharging with self-care. Doing so gives you the strength to heal, carry on, grow, and be at your best. If a sunscald tree doesn’t form protective calluses and receive water and nutrients at its base, it cannot heal itself. And then where will we be without its shade to help us weather this storm? May you find ways to recharge often. Most importantly, may you heal to provide strength for yourself and others.