I left the house in a huff of
anger and frustration, pulling away from the curb without a plan. I wanted quiet and space and a place to use
my computer and phone, but beyond all of that I needed to be near water.
I needed to sit and watch it
moving, to allow its gentle current to move me back into the larger stream of
life, a place more hopeful and healing than the dark corner I’d backed myself
into. So I headed to a park a few miles
out of town, a small strip of land bordering a creek that boasts a walking
trail with heavy, old picnic tables dotting the water’s edge.
It took me awhile to settle in,
I paced talking and texting on my phone, moving from table to table to avoid
the noise and dust of an industrial sized mower that seemed intent on following
me. I fidgeted and fussed, like a bird
looking for the perfect place to land.
Settling at last at a picnic
table in the shade near the water’s edge, I watched the water and the insect
world at my feet; the ants that ran in a fury and a caterpillar making its deliberate
way across the ground. As I watched, I
felt myself being slowed to the pace of the world’s breathing.
I suppose the tree was watching the
entire time. Observing the texting, the
talking, the hopping from table to table and then finally, the slowing, sinking
into time and space. She watched
waiting, reading me and holding her silence, like the wisest among us often do,
until the moment was right.
She spoke while I was praying,
in a voice that sounded, at first, like a cry.
I turned at the sound and there
she stood, just a few feet behind me, a statuesque sycamore. Her trunk was bent, jutting out like a woman’s
hip does when carrying a young child. Her
arms and shoulders lifted at an angle as though she had thrown her hands up in
the air at some point long ago. She wore
the beauty of her leaves like a giant head-dress that fell around her neck in a
waterfall of shaking, shimmering green light.
I wondered how long she’d stood there
watching the slow movement of the murky water, the endless turning of the world
and how much she knew of the fallen branches and logs, the trees now dead on
the opposite bank, bleached white like bones in the sun.
Despite her cry, she looked
happy to me, standing with her splotchy bark peeled white in some places, her
branches humming with the singing vibration of cicadas.
I noticed she was smiling and as
I sat, listening, she spoke again as if answering my unspoken question.
“I have deep roots,” she
said. “Besides, who do you think gave me
this voice? And who gave you
Her face softened then with
compassion, “Don’t be afraid to use it, to lift your voice and your arms and
cry out like so many before you, ‘Lord, don’t you care?!’”
She paused, as if to let this
Then she said, “Watch the water and
grow deep roots. The deeper your roots,
the louder your cry and the further your arms will reach until they’re knocking
on the very doors of heaven. Then you’ll
know that this is what you were made for; to stand here, with your gnarled roots
pressing down into the cool darkness, your weathered arms raised and shaking in
the wind, crying out, until you are reached and known by the One who gave you
I wrote quickly, listening to
the voice that came from without and within, all around, until she grew silent
again and still.
Looking back I can see how that
tree, so at home in her body and being, rooted deep by the water’s edge, was
calling me home. Speaking to my heart,
she bypassed my fear and anxiety, my questions and calculations, reiterating
the truth that this, indeed, is what I was made for.
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