My shadow on my morning walk.
(Remember, shadows add a hundred pounds!)
You might not guess that I get tired of reading and writing and saying words. Several weeks ago, I dispensed with words for my morning meditation and simply paid attention, reverently, to the trees that I passed on my morning walk. That’s easy to do in Atlanta, where we live, so full of trees.
Shortly after moving here, I tried to glimpse our house from a plane and realized I couldn’t see the houses for the trees. Arriving in my hometown of Los Angeles on that trip, I realized I couldn’t see the trees for the buildings, concrete and asphalt—an exaggeration, of course, but not much.
I distressed my mother by telling a friend that, by contrast, southern California looked bleak and bare. Mom had come from Kansas, and to her California was a verdant paradise.
Atlanta’s streets curve and wind and go up and down because they follow the old paths through the forest created by native peoples, at least according to a book on the history of Greater Atlanta Presbytery. This is the only thing I remember from reading that book, which may be revealing! Those paths have endured a very long time, in reality and in memory.
Saint Thomas More’s fictional Utopians held “that the careful observation of nature and the reflection on it and the reverence that arises from this is a kind of worship very pleasing to God.” This is one of the reasons why I appreciate Celtic spirituality, its “thin places” where and when we may glimpse heaven in earth.
Enya’s “Memory of Trees,” comes to mind, Joni Mitchell’s famous lyrics “You paved Paradise to put up a parking lot,” and of course, Mary Oliver:
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields…
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
In college, a tree on campus became my “axis mundi,” center of the world, as I sat beneath it reading texts for my religious studies courses.
As I write this, Wade is at a paper mill in Oregon in his role as an IT product manager for the paper products division of Georgia Pacific. He long ago reminded me that trees are a “renewable resource.” Companies like his go to great lengths to plant new trees where others have given up their lives for human products, otherwise they couldn’t remain in business.
This is true spiritually as well. We can’t spiritually “remain in business” if we forget the gifts of the rain forest as well as the tree outside my window.
As school children we learned the devout Catholic poet Joyce Kilmer’s famed lines, “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”
Blogs are written by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.
Today, go find a tree to hug.
I will be co-leading a contemplative retreat April 27-May 1, 2020 to which you are welcome: https://app.certain.com/profile/form/index.cfm?PKformID=0x3039640abcd
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