October 14, 2005
The Maple's Murmuring
Joanna Macy, in her memoir, Widening Circles, writes of a favorite maple tree on her grandfather’s farm where she found solace during an uneasy childhood. This maple tree stood alone, and was tall and graceful. Joanna writes that from age 9 to 17, she climbed that tree, and when she entered the lowest, waist-thick branch and slowly pulled herself upright, she "entered a solitude that was more than my own. It was a protected solitude, like the woods near the north pasture, but different because here one single, living being was holding me. My hands still remember the feel of her; the texture of the gray bark, the way it rippled in folds near the joints, its dusting of powder. As I climbed up into her murmuring canopy, my heart quickened - from fear of falling, and from awe. Caution felt like reverence."
"The maple tree did not invite pretending games. I only went there alone. It was a place to be quiet, a place to disappear into a kind of shared presence: the being that was tree and me, with the light coming through. The light is what I remember most of all; high and wide around me, it shaped a luminous, breathing bowl. It danced through the leaves, glowing them green and gold. It stroked the limbs with flickering shadows. When I sat very quiet, the play to light seemed to go right through my body, and my own breath was part of the maple’s murmuring."
Joanna’s beautiful recollection led me to reflect on spaces and moments for finding solace, and how it is that one is able to turn to find this ease and sense of awe. Surely this is available to each of us at any moment, as close as the tree trunk and the branches that hold us. Within our own field, opening up right inside of our being, an amazing energy is available to hold us, to breathe with us, and to gently shelter us. It is as available to the nine-year-old as it is to the ninety-year-old. This shared presence is the being that is you, with light coming through. Just as Joanna did, in a moment of sitting quietly in gratitude and simply turning into this ease, your voice and the maple’s murmuring become one.