Living this Layered Life



In response to last week’s post, a fellow blogger shared an inspiring account of the shaping influence his father had on his life, prompting me to explore the notion of identity further.

The natural world offers so many ways for thinking about our lives: the ways in which we live them and how we understand them. During my morning walks around the neighbourhood, I use Nature as a metaphorical filter through which to examine the way human lives are lived – mine in particular. The notion of time as circular, rather than linear, appeals to me, given the examples Nature provides.

At the moment many of our native trees are shedding their bark. I’m unsure of the botanical name of the ones pictured above. I think they are some form of lemon-scented flowering gum much loved by the flocks of Little Corellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and other birds which are attracted by the beautiful blossoms that appear later in Summer.

Responding to the call of the season summoned by the weather cycles, the trees shed last season’s layers of bark, growing into their new skins over the year’s course. As the old bark curls up and peels off, a delicate skin of silky sheen is revealed, tinted with pale shades of greens and creams that will mature to the lavender greys and apricot colours before they too will eventually shed.  Deep beneath the outer layer of bark, the trees are changing, expanding, and putting down new growth rings. They’re becoming new forms of themselves.

As I walked, I drew parallels between these beautiful trees and humans, each with their inherent perpetuity potential.  I thought of the ways we project different layers or aspects of our identities according to how and to whom we need to present the best possible expressions of ourselves.

These layers are not fixed but rather, are dependent on our emotional seasons and social weather in our perpetual state of ‘becoming’. We present different faces to the world depending on our social roles, situations and people we’re interacting with. We shed old, outdated versions of self, peeling them back to test the tender, newly minted ones for their capacity to excel. We ‘try on’ new ideas of who we are. Deep beneath our ‘surface selves’,  we too, are expanding, creating more growth rings, outgrowing our old layers of identity, and growing new versions of self.


Bark of the Leopard tree (libidibia ferrea)

I find this process is accelerating as I get older. Social roles are changing which means I’m challenged on multiple fronts to find my best expressions of self.

I no longer readily recognise the face in the mirror as ‘me’, although I’m grateful it doesn’t scare little children.


I observe the changes, not with dismay but with a (mostly) detached curiosity. While my growth rings are many, my blessings are too.


Have you shed an old identity lately?

21 responses to “Living this Layered Life

  1. Mmmm it appears we speak of different kinds of layers Rachel and Bun. I admit to anticipating a few extra layers of my own in the next couple of weeks. But will it change the present view of have of myself? Probably, but it will be fun … until I have to shed.

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    • Thank you Gail. Its interesting how objects like bark can carry emotional symbolism. My country dwelling friends see the bark as potential fire fuel which is such an issue in the bushfire season and so appreciate it’s beauty less because of that.

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  2. My husband’s 5-year old grandson made him a gift of a cutting of a small tree limb with bark outside and with rings inside. Charley cherishes it and I’m sure there are so many subtle thoughts involved. (His recent remission from his 8-year battle with aggressive cancer being among them.)Simple Gifts……

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      • Very early on when I was taking Blogging 101, we were instructed to write a post from a prompt and I did one on Charley’s cancer called Charley – Right to Brag. I may do more on health in the future, but I’m not really an expert on anything .There are so many great blogs about health issues from more knowledgable people.I have been trying out some different topics, even though the blog started out being mainly about A Berkshire Tale.

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      • Clare you write beautifully. I’ve enjoyed your informative blogs shattered with history and points of interest like the astronomy one. And of course the girls are always entertaining.

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      • I guess we view ourselves very differently because I think my style of writing is very ordinary in that I tend to “talk on paper”. I just have conversations. I read other writer’s blogs, (yours is one ) and I find them to be much better written.(And that is in the opinion of an English teacher. Don’t forget. I’ve seen and corrected a lot of writing in my time.) The travel blogs I’ve read have been amazing in both the quality of writing and the photos. Now, this is not me being humble, because when one of those bloggers compliments a post, I am appreciative, but it never ceases to take me by surprise. And so I thank you for this New Years Day Surprise. I awoke, once again at 4AM, which happens when I’m writing a book, and before I started on my next chapter, I checked my blog comments and there you were. What a lovely way to begin 2016, Robyn.

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      • I think the test is if writing engages you as a reader – if it makes you want more, want to read on. Your writing is like that for me. I’m happy to be responsible for being someone’s New Year surprise Clare ☺️I do enjoy our conversations. Those wide awake times in the wee hours are a killer the next day. I do hope they produce some good pages.

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      • Thank you. The engagement is like that magnet I spoke of in regard to your post on the little green tree toad.So, I just finished part of a chapter and am taking another break. I also had to go back to two earlier chapters to check out some plot consistencies. You have to be very careful about consistency within a mystery or readers will let you know about it. The very early morning hours seem to be the best time for me to write.And I can always take an afternoon nap if need be.

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  3. Wonderful metaphor: native trees, that shed their bark to be the same, yet not exactly the same but always thriving. Hopefully. Not familiar with the leopard bark tree! The only thing interesting in our country is maple from maple tree trunks that is a sweetener.

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