Transition

 

The Peeing Tree - The First Masculine Ritual


From Kenneth F. Byers

When my first boy was an infant, I had a friend with a son about four. We lived in the same apartment complex which backed up to a golf course. Late one summer afternoon as I drove in from work, I happened to see my friend and his son walking across the open green expanse toward a huge old oak tree. I parked and watched them, thinking about the day when I could walk with my own son, and teach him of the world. When they reached the tree, each unzipped his pants and proceeded to urinate on the great old tree. When they finished they zipped up, chatted for a minute, then turned around and headed back across the fairway to their apartment. A day or two later when I happened to see my friend, I asked him about that incident. It was a beautiful story which I will share with you.

As a boy, my friend Bill did not have much physical or emotional contact with his father. The man worked a great deal and it was not the kind of job to which he could take Bill. So Bill watched his Dad disappear six mornings a week to some secret place, with great curiosity and not a little jealousy. His Dad worked very hard and when he got home it was his habit to have a quiet dinner and listen to the news on the radio, occasionally tuck Bill into bed and disappear again, to where Bill had no idea.

On Sundays dad would spend most of the day wrapped around the newspaper or sleeping or doing a little work around the house. The father didn't talk much to Bill, or anyone else for that matter, and by the time Bill was four or five, he had learned that dads were not very available for conversation. There was never much doubt in Bill's mind that his father loved him very much, but he could never seem to get the same kind of attention that mom gave him, and it bothered him. Wasn't he, after all, a man, just like his dad?

So, at around the age of seven, Bill decided that he needed to talk to his Dad. One bright summer Sunday, he approached the older man and asked why he never talked to anyone but mom. Bill asked if that meant his father was not happy, and if his unhappiness was Bill's fault. At this, his father stared at Bill for a few long moments and asked why Bill thought he might be unhappy. "Well," he remembered saying, "how can you be happy if you don't talk?" Slowly, the father took Bill's hand and walked with him in silence to a far corner of their yard. Here they stopped beneath a great old oak tree.

"Son," the big man said, "there is no greater happiness in the world than in this old tree. It does not have to talk to be happy. It's happy just being a tree." "But you are not a tree, you're my dad," said the boy." "Yes, but knowing that you are my son makes me just as happy as this tree." The boy thought about this for a moment, looking up into the full and inviting arms of the tree. "But Dad," he said eventually, "how do you know the tree is happy?" "Well", he said gently and with a rarely seen smile, "it just looks happy. We can tell by the great size and fullness and richness of its branches and by its strength." "Can I help the tree be happy?" asked the young one.

With this, the father thought for a moment. "I'll tell you what, Bill. I'll bet that if you give the tree a gift, it would be even happier than it is now." "What kind of a gift could we give a tree, dad?" "Well, the most important thing for a tree is water. Without water the tree would quickly die. Suppose you and I pee on this tree and give it the gift of water." "Oh yes," cried Bill, "let's do that. Let's do that."

After that day it was never very hard for Bill to find a way to talk to his father when something important was on his mind. He would just ask him to come pee on the tree with him. Bill does not recall his father ever refusing.

With the passing years and the life of his father, Bill forgot about the ritual. Life got complicated, he fell in love and was married and eventually had a son of his own. That afternoon, when I had seen the two of them at the old oak, the boy had asked his father a very serious question. He wanted to know the difference between boys and girls. Bill felt uncomfortable but hesitated to brush the query aside.

Suddenly, the memory of his father came to him and he took the boy into his first initiation. As they stood before the great oak, Bill told his son, "Well, son, I guess that we're all pretty much the same in most ways but the main difference between boys and girls is that girls can have babies, which is very nice..but boys can pee on trees." Sometimes the greatest wisdom is in the simplest answers.

© 2010, Kenneth F. Byers

Other Transition Issues, Books

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A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition. - Juan Ramon Jimenez

Ken Byers holds a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Men's Studies, one of the few ever awarded in the U.S. Ken is a full time Certified Professional Life Coach specializing in working with men in any form of transition and an instructor of design at San Francisco State University.

His books, "Man In Transition" and "Who Was That Masked man Anyway" are widely acknowledged as primers for men seeking deeper knowledge of creating awareness and understanding of the masculine way. More information on Ken, his work and/or subscription information to the weekly "Spirit Coach" newsletter which deals with elements of the human spirit in short commentary, check the box at www.etropolis.com/coachken/ or www.etropolis.com/coachken/what.htm or www.etropolis.com/coachken/speak.htm or E-Mail You are welcome to share any of Ken's columns with anyone without fee from or to him but please credit to the author. Ken can be reached at: 415.239.6929.



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