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The Story Behind Our Cypress Tree

I didn’t expect that this blog would take so long to write. It started as a quick answer to a question our training participants often ask: “What’s the meaning behind the Cypress Resilience Project logo?” Simple enough, right? Except . . . once I sat down to think about it, it was a full-on Walk. Down. Memory. Lane. Like trying to organize a box of childhood memorabilia; an hour-long project that turns into a whole day of reminiscing, reconnecting with old friends, and processing lessons learned.

We had already been implementing trainings for months before the “official” launch of Cypress. But when the pandemic began, everything was chaos, nothing was predictable, and there was an urgent need for our communities to effectively navigate mental health challenges, trauma, and grief. So we decided to give our little project its own name and identity.

What was our vibe going to be? How could we make sure that our brand identity was aligned with our mission? And most importantly, how did we want folks to feel after completing a training with us? We decided that we wanted our trainings to be practical, accessible, and authentic. We wanted folks to leave feeling more confident to have conversations about these difficult topics, and empowered to help the people around them. We wanted to remind our participants that they already possessed the inherent resilience to navigate challenges and show up for their communities.

And I’m going to admit – for a moment there, we spiraled. Cypress Program Director Brooke and I started a text message thread, hundreds of messages long, about possible names for the project, logo colors and imagery, brand adjectives, and website content. The entire team began searching obsessively for images that represented resilience. We took a trip down the twisty, turny, rabbit hole of dendrology (a term I didn’t even know until we went to design this logo – see what I mean?!). And at the end of it all, we landed on the Cypress tree.

Cypress trees are the definition of resilience. They are adaptive to harsh climates and they thrive in environments that would otherwise be considered hostile. They have unique root systems that make them incredibly resistant to fire. And get this – when they grow close together, they survive even the highest of winds and the most tumultuous of storms because they lean on each other for support. How cool is that?

Brooke sent me a photo of a Cypress tree that she snapped while on a road trip down the California coast with her son. I sat in a park with my kids for an afternoon sketching the tree on my iPad, and the Cypress logo was born.

This blog took longer than I expected to write. Because now, just 3 short years later, we have trained thousands of people, certifying them in Mental Health First Aid, teaching them de-escalation skills, and mobilizing them around topics like toxic stress, burnout, and grief. We have had the privilege of working with individuals from a variety of professions, lived experiences, backgrounds, and cultures. We learned from our clients about topics like ADA accessibility, houselessness, the justice system, overdose prevention, and even dermatology. It has been a deeply humbling and profoundly inspiring experience for us. Thank you for being a part of our journey. And next time you see a Cypress tree, we hope it reminds you that, like a Cypress, you can adapt to harsh climates. You are strong and resilient. You will survive. And . . . like a Cypress, you don’t have to do it all alone.

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