mysterium tremendum et fascinans
(mysteries that fascinate us)
This past weekend I went on a Women's Retreat and was blessed. I was blessed by the women and by the time spent together. NDPC (North Decatur Presbyterian church) women are strong and funny. They are so very wise and kind. It was a great weekend. We had wonderful conversations and great food. There was much laughter, some tears, great singing. There was walking and talking and listening. Lots of leaning in. Our theme for the weekend was trees. Trees, the wonder of them and the mystery of them. Trees, ever companioning us through our days, and for me what had been a mystery became a strength and mercy.
Way back in October when Ellen G and I were first planning for the weekend, I thought about the lessons we could learn by just being mindful of trees. As we were letting go of 2019 and heading into 2020 (and all that it would hold), we thought trees would serve as good companions for the weekend. We'd be in the woods, surrounded by our teachers. Then, I thought about the trunks reminding us of our core - strong, sturdy, steady. The roots, deep. The roots being represented by past generations and life experiences that were holding us in place. The limbs and the branches representing our stretching beyond what is now and our hope for what is yet to bear fruit. It turns out we really didn't talk about much of any of that.
What we talked about this weekend was that and then some. We talked about time and pace. We talked about purpose and place. We talked about seeds and wounds and fruit and healing. We talked about the wind blowing and us not being able to see it, but somehow (mysteriously) knowing that the wind was there - and so were the trees and so were we.
Isaiah 55:12 says that all the trees will clap their hands. I believe that it can happen. I believe that it does happen. And from this weekend, I’m coming to understand that there is a strong need for us to be grounded/rooted in deep patience while we wait to witness it happening.
This weekend we talked about how fast paced humans are. I work in a hospital and I’ve been there about 3 1/2 years. I can honestly say that there have been maybe six days when I didn’t run into somebody or somebody ran into me. Things happen quickly, people are moving in different directions. In our hustling and bustling, we don't always pay attention or listen out or listen for another person close by.
Trees don’t collide. They weave in and through one another. I don’t know if it’s hearing or feeling/sensing or seeing. Miraculously, they can live for hundreds of years being side-by-side other trees and never crash into one another. In the woods, as we look around it’s not like-trees-with-like-trees. Different kinds of trees, different ages. Side-by-side, communicating and weaving.
For me, it’s a mystery. For the trees, it is instead their way of being in the world. My friend, Maggie is a lover of trees. She said she gets angry when people talk about being good stewards of the world. The truth is, for her and now for me after hearing Maggie's stories, humans need to be open to learning from the stewarding that has always been happening all around us. The trees have been stewarding humans as long as there have been humans. "What we can be," Maggie said, "is better better students of the trees, better listeners." Maggie's words still echo in my heart, "The trees have BEFORES before our befores. They will have AFTERS long after our afters are gone." Miracle? Mystery? Just something true we haven’t taken the time, the energy to experience. Yet.