DEEP ROOTS (4/10, Blessing of the Trees)
The Tree of Life lives on a beach in the Olympic National Park just west of Seattle, Washington. No kidding! This amazing Sitka spruce, affectionately nicknamed the Tree of Life, literally hangs suspended in midair by the strength of its lateral roots. (Do a web search for the Kalaloch Tree Cave if you’re curious.) What a vision of the tenacity of life! Under the roots of its massive trunk, a stream has eroded the earth, creating a cave large enough to walk into directly underneath the central bulk of trunk, branches and crown. Can you imagine how much weight is hanging over the earth in this seemingly miraculous architecture? It is a testament to the strength and breadth of this tree’s remaining roots that she stays not only upright, but surprisingly green and healthy!
Have you ever brought home a sapling from the nursery only to find it seriously rootbound, with its roots confined by its pot and growing around in a small circle? This does not bode well for the vigor of your young tree. Sooner or later, the leaves will begin to wilt and fall off. It will refuse to grow and will stop producing new branches or leaves. No matter how often you water it, it will dry up and eventually die.
Have you ever observed a person who looked good on the outside — for a season — and then suddenly surprised everyone with an unexpected and disastrous fall from grace? In the midst of their trouble, their inner ugliness comes out as they seek to justify themselves and cast blame on everyone else. Those people are suffering from an underdeveloped root system, like that rootbound sapling.
I closed my eyes and saw a vision
of roots as deep and wide as spreading branches
source and foundation of long lived stability
hidden in the secret places
like closet prayerfrom The Blessing of the Trees
Other individuals, like the Kalaloch Tree, can weather the most severe life circumstances and yet survive with admirable, even awe-inspiring gracefulness and generosity of heart. Like an old and weathered tree, their beauty is of a different kind — not of smooth skin and perfect symmetry, but of a fascinating and hard won complexity and unpretentiousness. And the difference is in what’s beneath the surface, in their rootedness. A healthy tree will develop a root system at least as large as its canopy — the part you can see — and often significantly larger. A tree’s roots not only provide an anchor into the solid foundation of the earth, but also are the conduits of the waters of life.
And the thing about roots is that they happen in the darkness and silence of the depths. The Kalaloch Tree is unusual in that we get a visual of the roots that are usually hidden deep within the dark earth. Because it’s what happens in private, not in public, that matters most in a person’s most fundamental health. That’s where growth and transformation first take place, like an acorn cracking open and putting forth its first delicate, white tendril.
In my own life, this is related to my contemplative prayer life. I definitely notice that, especially in hard times, my outer life can only be as strong and resilient as my spiritual life, which is cultivated largely in silence and solitude. The hidden place is the place of tapping into the deep goodness, nourishment and fertility of the Spirit.
“A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast”*** from “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer ***
What kind of practices can nourish your spirit? It could be all kinds of things, such as reading, journaling, prayer, meditation, creative art making, or spending time in nature. Speaking of trees, how about taking a long, leisurely walk in a woodsy area, opening your eyes, ears and other senses to the world around you? You might come home with your roots just a little bit longer. 🙂
Next post: CONNECTION (5/10, Blessing of the Trees)