An olde saied sawe, itche and ease, can no man please.
Plentie is no deyntie [dainty]. ye see not your owne ease.
I see, ye can not see the wood for trees.John Heywood, 1546
You Can’t See the Wood for the Trees
In the glossary of his book, John Heywood explains the saying, you can’t see the wood for the trees, as having so many good things people can miss that life as a whole is good.
Over the years the meaning has changed a little. If you focus on little details you can lose the bigger picture. Sometimes you can’t understand a situation clearly because you are right in the middle of it, too involved. You are there in the woods, with trees all around and all you can see is the tree in front of you. (And maybe a couple of pigeons!)
Take your eyes off that single tree and look around. You will see branches everywhere. Leading off in different directions, offering new paths, new solutions. Hey, if you are lucky, you may even see the sun shining through them.
The further you move away from the central situation the more trees you will see. The world as a bigger whole, and suddenly that little thing you are involved in doesn’t seem so relevent. You’re out of the woods now!
Other, more updated terms for this phrase are ‘First World Problems’ or ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.’
While you are stuck in that wood though, tied to that one tree, the rest of the world is hidden. And whether your tree represents something good (maybe a new love) or something bad (an argument) it’s always good to take a step out of the woods occasionally and look at the trees around you.
The photos in this post where taken of the trees at the bottom of my garden. They are not my trees, they line the canal, but I do love that they are there. You can see more photos of them here
I’ve some lovely foodie photo’s on this post here, if you’d like to take a look.