The Nurse Log

Guest Author: Ms. Storm Reyes. Featured Image: ©2014 Michael Russell.

I first heard the term “Nurse Log” from my father who was reminiscing about his logging days with an old friend.  A nurse log is one that has fallen and become the vehicle for new life. Small trees sprout out of it, critters make homes in it and as it slowly disintegrates, it nourishes the earth.  It has a vital place and purpose in the natural world, even though as a tree, its role has dramatically changed.

The concept of nurse logs has helped me to determine if something is simply a change in my life or in fact, a time of transition. As has been said many times, change is one of the few constants in life. I welcome change, as I would become stagnant without it– simply existing rather than fully living.  A life transition or transformation, however, I have found to be terrifying, particularly when it is not of my choosing.  Nonetheless, all persons will face it at one time or another and for some of us, many times.

Born into a world of poverty and violence, with intent and hard work I made my way out of it.  That transition required a drastic change of view and a few drastic actions. At the time it seemed the obstacles were insurmountable, but I had the will and energy to climb over or bust through them.   And when successful, I become a young, single mother. That transformation was the most terrifying because I was totally responsible for another human being and my mistakes would impact more than just me.  In 20 short years, I had gone from wild child, to hell-raising Indian with an attitude, to a responsible parent and contributing member of society.

That, however, was only the beginning of the transformations awaiting me.  Eventually the child grew to a manhood, graduated college, become a husband and father.  As he was building his life, I had to rebuild my own.  I finally went full-time to meet the calling that I had been trying to fit into a busy life. I become an ordained Minister in my spiritual tradition and that work led me to many unexpected places., including a marriage. Transition still wasn’t done with me, though, and ultimately I lost the marriage, my life’s work and everything that I had spent over 40 years building. This transition brought me to my knees and I wasn’t sure I could ever rise from it.

And you wonder what does a nurse log have to do with any of this?  The answer is simple: place and purpose. In each transition or transformation, I found my place and purpose in it. I owned it and took control of it, even though I felt helpless at its beginning. Each transition and challenge strengthened my capabilities and confidence in myself. Each become a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that has been my life and I now look forward in excitement for the pieces yet to fit in rather than the dread of missing ones.

The most difficult part of a transition is truly letting go of what was to make room for what is and will be. I always had a brief mourning period for the losses, but learned to focus more on what I had rather than what I did not.  I have learned to cherish the simple things in my life like the warmth of a good friend, the embrace of a grandchild, the taste of outstanding chocolate. Throughout all the transitions and changes, I have been able to sort through things to discover the vital things in my life and how vital my place and purpose is in the general scheme of things.

I have become that old nurse log now. My place and purpose is to support new life and do my part in nurturing those around me. I no longer stand tall and reach for the sky because I have already touched it. Now, I sit quietly through the seasons weathering the storms, soaking up the sun and enjoy the breeze and sounds that flit around me.

When transition comes your way, meet it head on. Step into it and embrace it. Explore it, prepare for it as best you can, guide it and remain flexible in it.  Let loose of the things that bind you to what no longer can be. Don’t give over your power to it, but instead acknowledge it and take the reins. Remember the ones that have come before and what was learned from them. It also helps to remember the old joke about how does one eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  You don’t need all the answers – you just need to ask the right questions and most importantly, trust yourself. You can do it – you have done it – you will do it.

-Storm “Jack” Reyes, Puyallup Indian Nation.




Eric graduated with honors in 2004 from the The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA. He was then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps the same year, completed multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Counterintelligence / Human Source Intelligence Officer and later as a Case Officer and Active Duty Special Agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Eric honorably discharged as a Captain after 8 years’ service in 2012.

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