Saturday, January 29, 2011

The forest for the trees

Met with an old friend today, and was so glad to pick up where we left off; for awhile I was worried I had lost him. Catching up I knew we’d both experienced quite a bit in the time we hadn’t seen each other: we’d both lost and gained things central to our lives. Driving home, I though about our chat, about what I am grateful for in my life, and looked out and ahead--at the abnormally warm, sunny day (for a January in Georgia, anyway), at the stands of pine trees flanking the road. My tranquilly snoozing daughter in the backseat paired with what lay ahead of me got me to thinking about the cliche.

Why is it that often we can’t see the forest for the trees?

In every way I catch myself on this one, and know you might, too. I’ll be looking at other peoples’ houses or clothes or whatever, wish for more or different, and forget to take a look at what I have, however humble. We live in a really small space, but we’re surrounded by trees, visited by a wide variety of birds in all their colorful glory and sweet sound. We know our neighbors and enjoy them. We have everything we need in easy access.

Beyond that, I feel as though I have more important gifts than those you store away. I know how to listen to others, how to read what might be appropriate and helpful for them as response, and to accept with compassion even if I don’t agree with everything that lands between us in conversation (a tough one, but I can do that!).

The gifts we’re given are the trees--if we study them, instead of wishing for a bigger forest or lamenting the ones we mow down, we’ll find the beauty of the bark, the twist of the limb, the settlement of birds and smell of pine pitch or flower or green bud come spring. Occasionally trees may need pruning, or even have to come down, but many remain, reaching up to the sky, growing in strength of root and branch.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I used to make cards for people--when I was little I dreamed, for a bit, of drawing and writing for Hallmark. Mostly I believed that I could make someone smile with construction paper, markers, crayons, and a good word. At least, the old lady who was home-bound on Raymond Street thought so. Or my aunts and uncles, friends and siblings.

However cheesy (you may think) Hallmark is (and often I do, too) we can say that it’s a manifestation of the way we seek to communicate with each other--in serious, silly, loving, or odd ways. Some don’t know how to put those words together, but I have always felt compelled to create my own combination of images and grace, little prayers in a compact package.

Guess I haven’t changed much.

I’m reaching back always to that guileless sense of self I had at 10 or 11 years old, knowing that if I just gave it my whole heart, that all would be well. I believed my father when he said that whenever I was afraid I should pray the Our Father. I am, as everyone who knows me knows, an idealist, but old age has tempered this with experiences both my own and of others.

So I pray for myself, but I pray for others--for those of you reading who are skeptical or caustically pessimistic at worst; for the children in wheelchairs I pass when I take my daughter to the hospital for pre-surgery check-ups; for those in deep conflict with others; those who struggle with depression or loneliness; those who care for a loved one who is ill; those separated from a beloved stationed in the Middle East; those who feel they have nothing to believe.

These and more. I know I tend toward lists, but prayers seem like lists to me of what we desire from God, from ourselves, and what we’re grateful for, when we pause and consider. This list is long and hard to make look savvy, and so I am straightforward.

The best kind of prayer.