Week One: God in the Yard.
A small space I tend to overlook is the foot of a tree. I remember sitting under trees during rain showers, swinging from their branches and scraping the dirt away from their roots with my shoes, buring treasures at the base of their trunks... when I was a child. I remember the different feel of the bark of Aspens, Maples, Oaks. I loved being next to something that was bigger than myself knowing it wasn't out to surprise me. Once I nailed a sign to a tree and after a while the tree began to ooze its blood through the hole and it made me sad. My botanist father sighed.
Sitting under trees is an activity left for children. They don't have a list of pressing things. They seek rest when they need it. They follow whims and imagination. When we encountered this tree last week on a hike through Kasha-Katuwe my children instantly ran to climb the roots. I stood back to take the picture.
We have three large trees in our yard; a Silver Maple, a Colorado Blue Spruce and an Austrian Pine. I never sit under them. I walk around them with wariness like I'm an intruder. I know they leave hands sticky, let insects move up and down their barked highways, drop things from their branches. I'm concerned that they too thoroughly shade my garden and might kill our new grass. I avoid the trees.
Last Friday, I sat under a tree for the first time in years. It was out of necessity; the grass all around was wet but this young Cottonwood had a broad, dry root protruding from the soil at its base. I leaned against the bark, velcro to my shirt, and watched my children play at their games. My freckled skin needed shade for that hour and the heart-shaped leaves provided it. Having my journal handy I pulled it out and wrote a few thoughts. An adult friend walking past, taking the children out to the field, whistfully commented that she wished she could be where I was. I felt childish; perhaps I should have been working too.
In order to grow I feel like I need permission. To grow as a counselor -- something I've become by default -- I need to feel like I'm allowed to push the one I'm helping. To grow as a leader I need other leaders to say, "Come on. We think your growth is a good idea. Keep trying." To grow as a teacher I need permission from the world to continue to follow my gut for my own kids. To grow as a writer I need permission -- maybe just from myself -- to set aside time to write. To grow as a wife I need to feel like what I'm doing is what he needs me to do. To grow as a Christian I need permission to grow on my own sometimes without taking a group along with me.
Cottonwoods don't seem to need any permission to grow. If they happen to park their seed by the water and they have enough space they'll continually grow. And they don't just do it adequately. They pile on gigantic branches, gain heights of nearly 100 feet and are considered majestic and magnificent. They spend their 70 years thirstily sucking the water from the ground and continuing to do what they were made to do. There is much to learn from their consistency and persistence.
This summer, I'll practice sitting under trees. I'll fail sometimes. I'll miss a day. I'll be misunderstood. I'll fear that, like Lent, I'll miss the point and the practice will not produce a purpose. It will be easy for others to label me as "odd". But something is there to be learned and enjoyed. I'm not a child anymore. Here we go.
Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it. (1 Timothy 4: 15-16)