In this season of Thanksgiving, I am aware of how grateful I am for trees.
Several years ago, a spiritual director shared a poem by Macrina Wiederkehr with me. It’s about a tree and includes the line: “Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go. First she surrendered her green, then the orange, yellow, and red finally she let go of her brown. Shedding her last leaf she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.”
The words and images of the poem are spiritual sustenance, especially in the short, cold days of late fall and early winter holidays. The image of a tree letting go of her leaves is a powerful one. I notice gratitude for each leaf that falls, and I feel strengthened in her waiting, vulnerable and bare, for new life to emerge someday.
As I go for a daily run, I notice the leafless trees in my neighborhood. They are teachers in the contemplative way. Rooted to the earth, flexible in the wind, reaching for the sky, and, seemingly empty, the trees are stable companions who give witness to the sacred promise of new life. They are empty and ready to receive.
I open myself to the possibility of letting go. I let go of my brown hair as it turns gray. I let go (little by little) of my compulsion to over-function in life. I let go of my desire for safety and security as I listen and respond to God’s invitation for me to generously participate in life.
And, as I let go, I am keenly aware that I do not know what the future has in store for me and the world. Like winter, the future could be bright and beautiful and/or brutal and bitter. Either way, the trees offer the gift of presence and the promise of companionship. I am not alone as I step into the courageous space of letting go. The trees trust in the promise of life. I, too, can trust in God’s promise for life.
I offer a prayer of gratitude for the presence of trees and the companionship they give us in all seasons. Blessings to you in this week of Thanksgiving.