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If you spend time with a tree, it will share its story, says Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist professor at SUNY and author of Braiding Sweetgrass (2013), her way of introducing her students to their classroom forest. And it’s precisely story that tweaks imaginations and sparks fire; without it, we languish.

From my study window, I glimpse my neighbor’s golden raintree thriving by his driveway, its growth since last year, considerable. I used to walk by it in all seasons: summer’s clusters of small yellow flowers mantling the ground beneath with the appearance of wetness—thus its name; autumn’s bronzing its fruit into what looks like three-pointed Chinese pagodas, only slowly dropping them; and winter’s sloughing off gray leaves and black pods to inquisitive gray squirrels.

So, what does this golden raintree say to me? Have I picked up its story? We both have been around for some years and I’ve been gifted with this new day to appreciate summer’s pristine splendor: the primary greens, still glossy, and the secondary yellows, still sun-catching—they play off each other and invite us to do the same.

Although change can be hairy at times, still it happens. The golden raintree is the same tree, but different and more herself. Yes, she’s feminine and lends herself to storytelling.

Look for her along city streets, backyards, and be delighted.

I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat of grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it yields, it grows into a rich harvest.

This text from the gospel of John 24:12 has always startled my psyche from humdrum glitches and quickened my full awareness into the present moment. It carries an urgency I dare not heed.

In the time of Jesus of Nazareth, reputed to have spoken these words to converted Greeks who sought after him, the image of sowing fields was commonplace and often used as a metaphor. The death of the outer sheath of the wheat grain initiated the plant for further growth of roots, leaves, stem, head, and awn. Failure to actualize this process produced withered isolates and final death.

Even in our beginnings, there’s death: the sloughing off the placenta at birth, but it does not stop there. Awareness of sin or character defects warrant our full willingness to change as we experience life—To become our authentic selves before our allotted time ends.

Even more so, living with a terminal illness, the challenge looms. It seems as if Creator God implanted death within all of life: an irritant meant to actualize our potential so as to share with others.

Such enrichment surrounds us if we are willing.

Yes, as the rain and the snow come from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the Word that goes from my mouth does not return empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in which it was sent to do.

So proclaims Isaiah 55:10

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