I was sitting in the dining hall at the University of St. Thomas while on retreat there last summer, when my attention was caught by a scene I viewed out of the window. A very tall, bare, grey tree towered alone amidst a stand of green trees. I was mesmerized by the view of this quiet, strong tree standing above the moving mass of green leaves below it. I took a couple of pictures of it, and even walked over to that area when I had some free time so I could get closer to it. Somehow, that tree spoke to me. I practiced deeply listening so that I might hear what it was trying to tell me. But the message did not become clear until, at the end of the retreat, we were in the dining hall for dinner, and a huge, ugly storm arose. I watched from the window as the storm moved in, first from behind the tree, then right over the top of it in all of its summer’s fury, and then finally dissipated. As the sun slowly set after the storm, I heard the tree’s message. This poem was what I heard. What do you hear?

 

Yesterday I saw you,
towering over the flowing, brilliant green canopy,
naked branches spread in stark simplicity,
a dark silhouette against the sapphire sky.
By all appearances, you are dead.

Your stem, your branches,
though stalwart, are gray,
ashen above the emerald vibrancy below.
Gusty summer winds dance
the green beneath you into fluid waves on an ocean of air,
but your barkless fingers reaching into the sky barely move.
By all appearances, you are dead.

By all appearances, you are dead.
But today, great green-yellow, purple-black storm clouds surge in behind you.
They roll in ominously, ever closer.
The green canopy below tosses and churns like an angry tide.

You stand tall, stalwart,
silent as you are enveloped in a roiling fury.
Lightning forks, flashing down all around you.
Rain pounds, hail pummels,
But you are stalwart, a silent force of your own.

By all appearances, you are dead,
but your roots are tangled fingers
holding firmly and deeply into the earth,
connecting to the green canopy in a myriad of unknown ways.
Perhaps you give them strength as they envelop you with life.

By all appearances, you are dead ~ NOT!