Among Trees

Yesterday, in her online sermon, my pastor used the Psalm 23 text, and emphasized the sheltering aspects of the psalm. At one point, she was discussing the sheltering canopies of trees, and she intimately described this weeping beech tree who lives on the campus of the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA. We cannot travel there now to sit beneath her branches, but here is a photo. I will meditate within her shelter today, through the images I have of her, but I will also physically sit on my porch under the sheltering canopy of my sycamore friend.

Do you have a tree friend? If you can do so without breaking your rules of sheltering in place, why not find a tree today, someone whose bark you can feel beneath your hands, whose branches filter light and air above you, whose presence can hold you steady in these unsteady times.

Below is a paraphrase of Psalm 23 that another of our pastors read during our online service yesterday. I love it.

Psalm 23
Nan Merrill | March 2010 (Vol. XXIII, No. 3)

O my Beloved, you are my shepherd,
I shall not want;
You bring me to green pastures for rest
and lead me beside still waters
renewing my spirit,
You restore my soul.
You lead me in the path of goodness
to follow Love’s way.

Even though I walk through the
valley of the shadow and of death,
I am not afraid;
For You are ever with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they guide me,
they give me strength and comfort.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of all my fears;
you bless me with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will
follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the heart
of the Beloved

~ from Psalms for Praying

Gratitude List:
1. The weeping beech at Wernersville. How she is present even at a distance.
2. The sycamore who holds our home in the hollow beneath her sheltering arms.
3. That little oak up the hill, who was a tiny sapling mere years ago, and now rises twenty or thirty feet at the top of the bluff.
4. Jacarandas and frangipanis, baobabs and acacias, the trees of my childhood.
5. The trees that you are. Together, we are a massive forest of shelter and presence. Thank you for your steady breathing, your strong presence.

Take care of each other.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic. . .the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
—Charles de Lint

“My invitation to each of you—student, faculty, community member—is to find a story of someone who has made a change, small or large, whether the consequence was their life or their comfort, and I want you to share that story with at least one other person, something that inspires you to step beyond the boundaries of your courage into a new world beyond the measure you ever thought you could make.” —Kevin Ressler, in 2017 memorial for M. J. Sharp

“What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light. You will perceive love from everything around you. This is the state of bliss.” ―Miguel Ruiz

“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” ―Alice Hoffman

“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer

Who Will You Harbor?

In that story where the pregnant woman and her husband get turned away from every door, would you have offered them shelter? Would you have helped the baby? Why not do it today? Why not help the travelers seeking shelter? Why not help the people fleeing with their child from violence? Speak up for them. Stand against the violent policies that tear apart their families and send them back into danger. Listen to Sweet Honey in the Rock: “Would You Harbor Me?”

Gratitude List:
1. You, who harbored me, my angst and my anxiety, my wrangling and my struggling. Let us be the ones who harbor others.
2. Your patience. I am a slow, slow, learner, but I am teachable. Thanks for trusting that I can learn.
3. Chocolate cream of wheat pudding. I just wanted a sort of healthy-ish snack, but somehow, I started dumping cocoa powder and sugar into the cream of wheat.
4. Reflections, and reflections of reflections. In water and windows. In eyes and hearts and souls.
5. People who help me not to do the knee-jerk dance, who help me to calm down, settle, relax and breathe before reacting.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Bud Always Opens Toward Decay

“Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.” ―Wendell Berry, from “What Are People For?”
“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” ―Gertrude Stein
“It is Story that heals us, that shapeshifts us, that saves us.” ―Sylvia V. Linseadt
“It can hurt to go through life with your heart open, but not as much as it does to go through life with your heart closed.” –Jim Doty
The bud always opens toward decay,
toward falling, the fragile bits within
slipping off their tiny moorings,
sifting downward, petals drooping,
dropping to the ground below,
offering beauty and a lingering aroma
in the briefest span.

The bud which never opens
also lives toward decay and rot
but never senses sun-warm petals,
never knows the draw of butterfly,
the tickle of the bee, never feels
the moment of release, of
settling to earth.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider

Gratitude List:
1. The gift of a new mantra. Today a young woman recounted a story of not getting what she needed in a certain situation. “Next time, I will speak my need,” she said. Me too.
2. That Ross Gay poem, “Sorrow is Not My Name
“I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.”
3. Shelter. Food. Clothing.
4. Music
5. The last of the summer sweet corn. It seems appropriate to have an end-of-summer corn dinner.

May we walk in Beauty!

Hidden Trails

Trail across Cabin Creek, where the foxes and coyotes and deer cross the creek and enter the bosque. That’s poison ivy on the cherry tree at the front left–poison ivy is the protector of wild places.

Gratitude List:
1. Lots of work getting done
2. Sheltered places
3. Sleep
4. Voices of sanity and calm amid the clamor
5. Making plans for solitude and rest

May we walk in Beauty!


Poetry Prompt for today is Shelter, and I have been in the shelter of my bed, sick, today.  This will be a basic draft to work on later.

Things are looking rough out there.
The wind is kicking up her heels
and you look a little the worse for wear.

Step in to the shelter of this poem for a moment.
Catch your breath, escape the wild things
that have been nipping at your heels.

Sit by the fire and take off your wet shoes.
Have a cup of peppermint tea and a biscuit.
Listen to the rain pounding on the roof
and the wind howling down the chimney.

And listen to while I tell you a story.
There was a brave and golden child.
Oh, you know this one?

How she was lost in the darkest part of the wood?
How she fought her way through briars and brambles?
How she suddenly had the wind kicked out of her,
how the wild things tore her hope to pieces,
how it all blew away in the gale?

But did you hear about the part
where she took shelter with the crone,
where she looked in a mirror
and saw the reflection of her grandmothers,
how all those faces recognized her strength,
her inner fire, her unbroken spirit?

Oh yes, I know you must go back out there,
back to the storm and the wild things.
You have a harrowing run ahead of you,
a perilous journey.  Here are provisions:
cakes and tea, a small white stone,
the doll that your grandmothers made for you.

When you have gone, I will whisper your name to the wind,
I will write it on my mirrors.  I will sing it in the dark.
Whenever you feel you cannot go on,
return to the room of this poem,
with its cheery hearth and dry blankets.


Gratitude List:
1.  Chickadee’s spring song: Sweeeee–eeet!  Sweee-eeeeeeet!
2.  Rest
3.  Jane Goodall is coming to Lancaster!
4.  Saltines and ginger ale
5.  Green

May we walk in Beauty!