Gnarly, not OLD!

Gnarly Roots

Looking for My Gnarly Tree


Kathie Lee Gifford said it.

“I am no longer old.  I’ve now become gnarly.”  I heard it one contemplative morning on the show “Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda” on NBC.

This wise declaration made me think.  Who wants to be old?  YES! I am gnarly too!

The definition of gnarly is “difficult, dangerous or challenging.”  Being gnarly is being real.

“Real doesn’t happen all at once.  You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Gnarly has always been a word that describes a tree, at least in my mind – most likely a wise oak tree with protuberances from years of wear and tear, like a knotty arthritic hand, worn and weathered and twisted from living life to the fullest.  The trees roots are anchored deep into the ground, revealing a tortuous tuberous entanglement above ground.  Only God knows the elusive entanglement below the ground.

I love the idea of being gnarly.  I love knowing that I am real and genuine.

And at that point it all becomes problematic and a bit long-winded.  I remember the most awesome gnarly tree you can even begin to imagine.  It was long ago (perhaps 10 years or more) at a family gathering I believe was in Chippewa County, Wisconsin.  Our family joined together to celebrate the visit of a family priest from Germany – an ancestor few had met previously.  We were in a cemetery that had a chapel or church where Father Gutmann (Goodman) said Mass.  I recall my Mother saying that my husband and I should travel to Germany as we have many relatives there.  Father Gutmann (Goodman) invited us there too – near the Black Forest.

It was a reflective day and the setting itself contributed to that mindset.  In the midst of that serene cemetery venue was a massive knotted, deformed and time-worn tree.  It had the most meaningful character with manifestations and gnarly protuberances that revealed it had experienced times of great suffering.  Yet, it stood proud and made me feel that I too, have become stronger for the struggles of life.

My mind’s image of that majestic gnarly tree encapsulates all my feelings and thoughts.  I thought of all the people that lie beneath the rooted ground, all their battles and all their fears and the entirety of their lives.

I have such a deep respect for that tree.

It was easy to see this tree had experienced some “hard knocks” and had grown all the more resilient because of them with its bumps and patches and exposed and raw trunk.  These knots and twists and outgrowths added depth and character, uniqueness and certain “special-ness” that no other tree possessed.  It was a tree possessing strong faith, hope and love.  Its branches broadened and extended like protective wings representing refuge and the Lord’s strength during life’s trials and storms.

I loved that tree.

I want to see that tree again.

My Uncle Ken had his video-recorder going (as he does in all family get-togethers) when I told him I respected that iconic tree.  I recently emailed him to find its location as I wanted to go see it again. (AND I wanted a picture of it for this blog posting.)  He no longer recalled the location.  And a bit flippantly but sincerely wrote: “It is probably gone by now.”  My heart sank…

Since then I have taken some road trips around Chippewa County, searching for my gnarly tree to no avail.  Perhaps Uncle Ken is right and good ole “Gnarly Tree” is gone.  I like to think “my tree” is still strong and still fighting his battle against the world.

Kathie Lee Gifford really had it right when she said she is not old, she is gnarly.  She has weathered the storms of life and came out real and beautiful to all those that surround her.

Growing older (whoops, I mean “gnarly”) is much different than it was in prior generations.  People are living longer and healthier lives.  Human beings, like my favorite gnarly tree, desire to maintain dignity and independence and above all, strength in adversity.

Caring for our heart – our emotional and spiritual heart as well as our physical heart – is a huge part of being healthy. The human heart is not just the core of an individual that pumps our blood through the body; it is the heart that loves, and feels and remembers.

May this lesson of the heart – Advice from a Tree – make your heart healthy and strong.

Advice from a Tree
by Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!

I would love to see pictures of your favorite gnarly tree.  And it you happen upon a cemetery and see my old friend, “Gnarly Tree”, please let me know.

And, of course, please take care of your heart. 

If you are asking yourself: “How do you know you’re gnarly (old)?”, this will help:

Quizzes abound on aging.  Here is KLG and Hoda’s simple test to determine your gnarliness. (as in “if you are old”?)

1.  OMG!  You have no idea what most modern acronyms mean and you don’t give a darn.

2.  You really and truly believe parties would be better if they would just turn that DARN music down!

3.  You make audible noises whenever you sit down or get up from the couch.

4.  You feel more affection for animals than people.

5.  You use the word “rambunctious” to describe someone you don’t like.

6.  You think people should send fewer emails and write more darn letters.

7.  When you spill food on yourself you genuinely don’t care!

Are you gnarly?  Did you answer the majority of the questions with an affirmative?  If so, welcome to the Gnarly Club!

9 Comments on “Gnarly, not OLD!”

    • Uncle Tree, I just checked out your gnarly site, and couldn’t stop reading. It contains truly thought-provoking words and inspiration that can only come from a gnarly heart! With much gratitude for your connection and comments ~ Gnarly Sharon

  1. Great analogies and much food for thought……I pray you find that tree YOU are looking for!!! I like the advice from the tree!!!! Very wise!!!!

  2. What a delightful way to start a Sunday morning, Sharon! “I am no longer old. I’ve now become gnarly.” Love that quiz at the end, too – and I’m afraid I passed with straight A’s. Thanks for this!

    • Yes, Carolyn, I passed that quiz with no problems also… good to know we are in the same Gnarly Club! It always warms my heart to know you enjoyed a post of mine. Thank you for your thoughts. Enjoy this beautiful Sunday.

  3. Great stuff for a Sunday morning,Sharon!Ok_I admit it-I”m GNARLY,also! (Deal with it!:) Moses in the Old testament must have been really gnarly! (he was supposedly around 300 yrs old? Here is a great song to summarize your blog:


    • I absolutely LOVE this song, Ronaldo… and, indeed, it is the perfect accompaniment to my post today. THANK YOU! You are always thinking… and I love your thoughts and responses. Hugs back to you!

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