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In the wake of spring rains irresistible puddles swell holes along woodland paths.

 

 

Eighteen-month-old Lily happened upon one, her rubbery legs encircling it with glee. Excitement mounted as the circles narrowed. Then, she paused at the puddle’s edge and jumped, water drenching her boots, her arms flailing at her sides. More circles followed with intervals of pausing and jumping. Instead of retreating to dry ground, she stooped over and rippled the water with a stick, stood up, then did it again. Her mother noted all of this beneath an oatmeal sky, and when Lily tired, gathered her in her arms and headed for home.

A simple story repeated around the world—it spoke of reckless abandon. Fearless, in full motion, focused, her senses totally engaged, Lily yipped with gusto—Certainly a desirable approach to new learning, when starting over.

And do we not start over with the gift of each day?

This prayer from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous fires my attitude: We ask his protection and care with complete abandon.

Like a single grain of wheat tossed upon parched ground, we feel huge discomfit: estrangement from familiar routines, isolation in lockdown homes and solitary walks, the constriction of unaccustomed silence, and starvation for vital nutrients. Gone are the predictable sources of affirmation, save for our pets. Such pain and suffering are getting old: the funny jokes, no longer funny, topics of conversation lapsing into fickle weather patterns. Each morning’s tally of the victims seems to preclude considering our own.

Yet, Kovid-19 intensifies its killing swath like trigger-happy ghouls firing into the empty night. An epidemiologist likened this virus to an unpredictable Mexican jumping bean—no telling where its contagion will next appear.

How face this crisis that seems to have longer legs than first anticipated? How remain intact before its dismembering, despite slow-burning fears roasting our innards?

Back to the single grain of wheat for a response: it must die to its shortsighted will, it must allow the combing of the new deceased, it must scour the heart of stuff, it must acknowledge its creatureliness. With acceptance, comes fresh growth—this is God’s work.

Such life lessons continue informing my hospice experience, soon to enter its sixth month of praying, listening, and waiting. There’s still much to learn.

Jesus also spoke of the single grain of wheat in the Gospel of John. We’re in good company.

 

Outside my kitchen window, the London Plane Tree has long intrigued me with its vertical playground for mating squirrels, its organic shade cooling several houses, its variegated trunk of browns/greys with seasonal shedding, and its autumnal blanket of hand-sized leaves swept along the plank fence. Today’s soft breezes smooch and tease hairy-like limbs burgeoning with buds the size of pebbles.

Builders of my bungalow must have planted this tree in the 1940s and tended its needs. After decades of growth, other owners crowned it, leaving an unseemly ridge, from which great limbs continued their prodigious growth, skywards. When leafed out, its overarching branches obscure the sky.

Such seasonal beauty constellates the ancient symbol of the Tree of Life within my psyche. Found in many of the world’s mythologies, religious and philosophical traditions, it connects heaven with the underworld. Such renditions speak to the innate yearning for union with the Ultimate that, alone, gives earth-life purpose and texture. One example is the thirteenth-century Yggdrasil, an immense mythical ash tree that plays a central role in Norse cosmology; it was depicted in 1847 by the Danish printmaker Oluf Olufsen Bagge.

 

 

In my backyard, though, I have my own Tree of Life, a daily reminder of my integration within the mystery of ongoing creation: An additional fourteen feet have grown since moving here. And still more to come…

 

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