Knotty, Swirly, Lumpy, Beautiful Burls

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

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I look ahead to the miles and miles of road stretching straight before me. As far as the eye can see, there’s only a worn, gray path known as Highway 62 that seems it will drop me off the edge, should we go far enough. Lined with pine and fir trees, the gray ribbon of asphalt burns hot from the hellish fires that fiercely fan the flaming sun above.

I take my eyes off what is in front of me and glance to the forest standing erect beside me as we pass by. I see a burl halfway up a tree. The beauty of its bumps and the bending of its trunk take my breath away. I wonder: If it displays beauty from this far away, imagine what it shows off up close and inside.

As we pass through this forested plantation I think about the burl. 

A burl is the knobby growth most commonly seen at the base of trees. It is said that burls usually grow under “stress.” 

Stress for a tree could imply an injury, a virus, or a fungal infection, which in turn can throw the tree’s growth hormones into a state of confusion, according to Treehut. However, it may eventually produce those bumpy lumps and swishy swirls we have come to know as a burl. Some have even referred to this process and the final result as “distorted beauty.”

Parkinson’s disease often makes us feel like we are living a life of distorted beauty. We may tire of the bumpy lumps on this road. We may grow restless as the “swishy swirls” turn over in our brain, causing us confusion and other cognitive problems. 

The stress we endure can cause us to be unapproachable and ugly in nature, as we may have difficulty living with our pain, grief, or uncontrolled movements. We may not know another way to express ourselves as we live with this disease, so we become someone we never hoped to be.

People with Parkinson’s may have so many other issues that we begin to view ourselves as distorted and abnormal — like a burl.

In this process of becoming distorted in beauty, we may lose some patience, causing us to be short-tempered with others. At times we may be harsh instead of gentle with those who are trying to help us. 

Close your eyes and picture a forest full of tall pines, firs, redwoods, and more. To your right is a bent tree with a burl growing on it. A knotty, bumpy, swirly burl. It may seem not-so-beautiful now, but it is becoming beautiful — more and more beautiful with each season. Just like you.

As you journey down your path with Parkinson’s, be patient. Be kind to those who are trying to help. Show gentleness when the pain makes you feel like spilling harshness along the way. In the stress and the strain, be a burl.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


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