The Thinking Tree

It is the time of year where we will be moving into deep winter. The time for fires and books and long stories. The time for games with our children and conversation over coffee or tea with our friends. The time for long walks on quiet winter roads. I call this the time of awakening, for it is always in deep winter where I feel the illumination of hope within. If I am listening.

Today I have found myself gazing out the window at the way the snow is glistening off of our cherry tree- the tree our son has fondly referred to as “The Thinking Tree.” This tree stands in the corner of our front yard, and while it may not seem like much to the average passerby, it is the source of childhood magic. This tree is our son’s “sacred space,” and the place he has gone throughout his childhood when he has needed to think, to process something he is feeling, or just get away from it all. We have purposely kept it overgrown in effort to help keep the protective feel for him.

Today, The Thinking Tree is bare- I can see our neighbor’s house directly through it. But it is covered in a beautiful layer of freshly fallen snow. The ugly stumps of where it was mistakenly trimmed too deep last summer have become a favored perch for the vast array of birds our neighbor lovingly feeds all winter. The bare branches, once so thick with leaves and fruit that they were unable to be seen from our living room window, are shrouded in a glistening layer of snow. The squirrels who have overtaken our neighborhood appear to be putting on a circus performance. And I am reminded that, like this Thinking Tree, no matter what our circumstances are, we can always find ways to give to the world. We can always reach out and be the shelter for someone else’s heart. We can find ways to carry beauty and hope. We can experience hope, even in the deep winter of our lives.

In each of us, we carry a richness that is hidden. Our cultural backgrounds and our past, our insecurities and our woundedness, our achievements and our dreams, all become the layers of bark and leaves that we protect ourselves in. But the elements expose us. The storms enter and in our exposure we feel raw. Empty. Vulnerable. Our brokenness sometimes feels beyond repair. We are broken from the way others have deeply wounded us. We are broken from the way outside circumstances seem to put a wrench in our plans. We are broken from addiction, trauma, regret. And sometimes, within that brokenness, we don’t see a way to keep going.

But the light burns on. As Teilhard de Chardin eloquently said, “We imagine the Divine as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.” Yes, somewhere deep within, the light of hope flickers and licks at our hearts until we can feel it burning again. For some of us, we are reminded of this hope in the way nature seems to gently sing “Keep going. Keep going. You are worth everything”. For others, hope is a ferocious tiger inside that growls fiercely “DON’T give up. Don’t you dare stop. The winds will howl. The cold will be bitter. Keep. Going”. If we stop and listen, we can hear the voice of hope within each of us. Step by step, our journey continues and our path unfolds.

So, this New Year, right now, in this winter- may we breathe in the deep hope within us. May we remember the sacred light we all carry. May we feel the buds of spring pushing through our hardened defenses. May we open for light and life and friendship. May we join hands with our brothers and sisters, our enemies and friends, and say “yes” to the goodness we all carry. May we feel the burning embers of hope within.

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