Being with the trees reminds me…

So this past week, I spent three days with my Journey Fellows just being. This was our third retreat time together but we spent a good deal of our time in solitude, working on being still. During one of these times of quietude, we were given a Mary Oliver poem to contemplate and asked to go find a tree to simply be among. Instead of walking deeper into the woods, I chose a tree nearer the patio deck lined with rocking chairs. I chose this particular tree because it is like a decorative tree I have in my yard. It’s a tree that won’t get too big in it’s landscaped home; it doesn’t put off an abundance of leaves so it’s not too messy when fall inevitably comes around.

I sat down in the rocker looking at this decorative tree locked into the landscaped mulch bed maybe 25 yards away from the “real” treeline of the forest.  I read the Mary Oliver poem.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness,

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.


As I sat there looking at my chosen tree, the tree set apart from the others, I noticed it had a string of artificial lights unplugged, but still there. Its separateness and isolation struck me. This tree was apart from nature, decorative in its purpose, landscaped in a place where an abundance of “real” trees already exist. In its isolation from the other trees, it needs to be filled with artificial light requiring it to be plugged in.

We Journey Fellows have sometimes spoken of how our work of caring for and taking care of so many people and things sometimes makes us feel isolated and set apart from the rest like my lonely, decorative tree. This third retreat has me thinking about what the journey has been like…The first retreats brought us isolated trees–the ones with strings of artificial lights together, and they plugged us in and let that artificial light shine to remind us that we do have light to shine. But, the further we get into the journey, the more I realize that we are all real trees, not landscaped, decorative ones with a string of fake lights and a need to be plugged in to shine. Rather, we walk this journey among the trees that are the other Journey Fellows and our retreats are about the other trees calling out to us, “Stay while.” We slow each other down to make the going easier and the light more real.

Thanks, fellows, for being real.


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