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Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 142                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 126

Today’s Mileage: 0                                          Total Trip Mileage: 996

Leaving prayers at the center!

Greetings everyone!  I am writing today’s blog from atop Little Scaly Mountain near Highlands North Carolina.  I am acting as a chaperone for a group of church teens who are attending a Youth Conference at the Mountain Retreat and Learning Center.

I had intended to blog on a Pilgrimage site in Daytona Beach yesterday, but sometimes life’s demands conspire against us.  Meetings and preparation for this trip occupied my day and my chaperone duties occupied the entire evening.  In addition, there is something about cold fresh mountain air that draws me into a state of deep sleep.

 Mountain Dining Hall Banner: “To embrace the diversity of life, creating an environment to energize people to work for positive change.”

“The Mountain” as we Unitarian Universalists of the South Eastern US call our church affiliated retreat center is literally housed on the top of a mountain in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain range.  From the fire tower at night you can see lights from South Carolina and Georgia

Mountain Dining Hall Plaque: “We drink from wells we did not dig.  We are warmed by fires we did not build.”

I just left the “morning gathering” where the 100+ High School aged teens sang songs and prepared for a series of workshops that will occupy much of their day.  I retreated to the “library” where the energy and noise levels are more conducive to my writing today’s blog.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Energizing for Generations to come”

Meditation Rock!

I am one of those people where the solitude and serenity of nature is a powerful influence on my spirituality.  Nothing relaxes and inspires me like a walk through nature.  The Mountain has been a special place of spiritual renewal for me since I first discovered it, on a church retreat, some sixteen years ago.  I have acted as my church’s ambassador to the Mountain, given workshop and presentations for group retreats, accompanied church youth here for conferences, and most often just “dropped in” and stayed to hike, meditated, relax and create. The center is open to individual and groups of any faith or secular group.  The mountain embraces diversity and promotes positive and just social change.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Living Simply and Sustainably”

The Mountain has been a place I have come to: let go of painful relationships, write poetry, find inspirational images for my artwork, sort out my life goals, relax while visiting various waterfalls, walking the surrounding mountains and the labyrinth and reconnecting with nature.  One of my favorite stories was the time I visited during the winter.  I arrived and the staff announced that they were all going away for three day.  They left food in the Dining Hall fridge for me to eat.  I spent two days and three nights alone on the mountain top.  The serenity and sense of solitude, especially at night, as the wind blew and ice crystals danced in the noon light was profound.  I ended up discovering that I was not entirely alone, as I found rabbit tracks in the fresh snow!

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Embracing Diversity”

The Labyrinth at the base of the mountain contains an alter stone at its center where people leave offerings and mementos.  Among the items are two stones, one bears a painted yin-yang symbol the other the sacred Hindu symbol “Om.”  On the bottom of each stone is the name of my sons. I have carried them with me in my thoughts and prayers as I walked this sacred path.  I left each stone there that they might draw strength and serenity from these sacred mountains.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Being Just”

Before I leave today’s blog, it is nearing lunch time and I must rejoin my teens, I wanted to share with you a piece from the book: “Everyday Tao” by Deng Ming-Dao.  He writes about the mountains by saying:  “The ancient teachers took their students to the mountains, so that they could find inspiration in the high, sweeping vistas.  Each of them could take pleasure in the fresh air scented with pine and herbs.  None of them could fail to clear the mind of the toil and considerations of daily life.  From ancient times to the present, the mountains have been the best places to learn about Tao.  In the isolation of the mountains, with the voices of the throng stilled, the whispers of Tao could finally be heard.  This is what the ancients called the mountain spirit.”

Sunrise from the Fire Tower!

I am breathing in and relishing that mountain spirit.  I feel its presence refreshing and recharging my own spirit.  But it is now time that return to “the throng” with its infectious teen energy and youthful joy.  It is all part of the yin-yang dance of life!  Have a wonderful day!  I will return to our virtual journey and Daytona Beach tomorrow.

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page!  For more information about the Mountain visit: http://www.mountaincenters.org

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 134                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 116

Today’s Mileage:  5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 943

Ideals at what costs?

Yesterday I blogged about the Canaveral National Seashore and then did an abrupt shift to talk about the faculty recital that I had just witnessed.  Clearly we can spend time analyzing the meaning of things, like nature, and their significance in an intellectual way.  We can also “be in the moment,” turning off our analyze functions and just experiencing the music and lyrics.  I’m reminded that the importance of nature is not in what it stands for, as much as it is in the experience it provides to us.  It can be a unifying and transcending experience that I believe is available to us if we open ourselves up to it and listen.

Hoping for a different outcome!

I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog on today as we continue to ride up the coast.  Tomorrow we will turn west to catch an important pilgrimage site before we turn toward Jacksonville and St. Augustine.  I started the day drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper.  I had to chuckle at a cartoon which showed two people living in a cave when the man says to the women: “if you keep harping on the $#@! Results, you’ll NEVER be able to see what a perfectly sound economic theory it was!”  I have had similar discussions with individuals about political theory, theological theory, and psychology theory.  It is important to have a theory to guide our decisions.  However theories must be tested with the “data” and adjusted accordingly.

Years ago I had a colleague who spent twenty years researching a particular area of study.  He had published books on the topic and was a nationally recognized expert.  Then after a series of new discoveries, made by other researchers, it became obvious that his theory no longer explained the data, and that a new competing theory was better.  Like a good scientist he published a statement acknowledging the validity of a new theory.  It takes a strong and secure person to admit that their ideas are no longer supported.  Only then can a person truly move on and make good decisions, otherwise you are just doing the same thing and hoping for a different outcome.

As I drove to the university I heard a piece on the radio news announcing a proposed law in my state.   The topic is a hot button issue for many people and occurs against the larger backdrop of stories about people sufferings (e.g., Haiti, unemployment).  Politicians in Washington struggle with how to deal with so many people out of work, so many people running out of unemployment, so many people losing their homes, so much suffering!  With this backdrop of human suffering what I see is a need for compassionate responses.  A need for decisions that actually take into account those who are suffering!

In the mean time, a state legislator from my state has proposed that coverage for any abortion, for any reason be dropped from all state health plans.  If this proposal becomes law my state will turn to a young woman, a victim of rape carrying a pregnancy she did not want and tell her, sorry there’s nothing we can do!  My state will turn to a young woman a victim of the most hideous breach of trust, a victim of incest, who is carrying an unwanted pregnancy and say to her, sorry there’s nothing we can do!  My state will turn to a woman in danger of losing her life because of a threatening pregnancy and say to her, her husband and family, sorry there’s nothing we can do!

Ideals for all of us!

Why can’t we do the obvious and offer them the option of terminating the pregnancy of resuming a somewhat normal life or saving their life?  We can’t because we are striving for an ideal, an ideal world in which there are no abortions.  If we create such a law are we really moving closer to this ideal world?  Will there be less rape, less incest, fewer unwanted pregnancy, fewer pregnancy related deaths.  Is this ideal world a place without compassion, where the only concern is for the “pregnancy” whether wanted or not?  Ideals are important, ideals are benchmarks we can work toward, and ideals help us redouble our efforts toward our goal.  However, an approach that champions “ideals at all costs” ignores the cost of their positions, ignores the victims and becomes another variation of “ends justify the means.”

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 133                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 115

Today’s Mileage:  10                                             Total Trip Mileage: 938

On a sand pilgrimage!

 I am writing today’s blog as I sit in the lobby of the Carroll McDaniel Petrie School of Music.  My partner Susan is giving a faculty recital in a short time and I figured I might as well do something useful and stay out of the way.

Today we are going to ride through the Canaveral National Seashore just up the coast from the Kennedy Space Center.  I have included it on my list of Pilgrimage and Retreat sites as a Nature Site and a Historical Site.   A Nature Site is described as a location where nature’s beauty may leads to an experience of wonder and awe and a sense of connectedness with that which is greater than us all, the divine.  I reserve this distinction for locations like National Parks. 

Situated on a barrier island the Canaveral National Seashore features 24 miles of pristine, undeveloped beach and dunes.  The Atlantic Ocean pounds the eastern shore, while to the west is Mosquito Lagoon.  The Site includes historical buildings and a Historical Interpretive Park highlighting the history of the local Native Americans and the early encounters among the natives and European explorers.  In addition to the beautiful beach and stunning sunrises the area is home to abundant wildlife. 

Sacred Sands!

The title for today’s blog was taken from an article by Lynn Ross-Bryant in the Journal Religion and American Culture. The author makes the argument that the U.S. National Parks have played a central role in the unifying discourse of America since their inception after the Civil War.  She argues that the parks were able to serve this role because of the close alliance between nature and nation.  Nature “set apart” in the parks becomes the embodiment of an archetypal America, which was the ever-pristine source of greatness of the nation and people.  As such she argues that the parks serve as a sacred site and a unifying symbol of US culture.  She believes that by approaching the parks as pilgrimage sites, you can examine the American values that are embodied in them.

**** Time for the recital to begin****

I now sit in reflection, memories of sweet notes swirl about me like embers dancing about a blazing fire. As I listened to Susan sing I was particularly drawn to the words of one song entitled: Sweet Chance That Lead My Steps Abroad.  They read:

Sweet chance that lead my steps abroad

beyond the town where wild flowers grow.

A rainbow and a cuckoo,

Lord, how rich and great the times are now!

Know all ye sheep and cows

that keep staring that I stand so long

in grass that’s wet from heavy rain,

A rainbow and a cuckoo’s song

may never come together again,

may never come this side the tomb.

A rainbow and a cuckoo’s song

may never come together again.

These lyrics remind us that we can get lost in intellectual discussions about the symbolic meaning of national parks and nature, or we can get lost in the experience of nature.  The choice is ours, the experience of nature is usually only steps way!

 

Sacred light from the east!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page.  For more information about the Canaveral National Seashore please visit the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this page.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  126                                              Days Blogged: 108

New Mileage: 5                                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 895

As I climb on the bike this morning we are preparing to visit our fourth pilgrimage site in four days!  Those of you who have been following my progress know that I go through a kind of a feast versus famine experience with respect to pilgrimage site visits. At times there are long stretches where either few sites exist along our virtual path or I may for various reasons simply ride and go “off map.” However for the next week there’ll be a number of pilgrimage/retreat sites that we will visit as we leave the Orlando area and head east toward the coast.

Dazzling Blossums

In an earlier posting I talked about how I classify retreat sites based on the degree to which they offer nature as part of their experience. Retreat sites range from “indoor” sites, to ones that feature Gardens, to those that offer what I call “nature tranquility” where there may be walking paths and extensive botanical Gardens and then what I call “nature sites.”  Nature Sites are typically places like national parks where there may be little man make development and the awe inspiring aspects of nature predominate.

 I came across an article, from which I took today’s blog title, in which a researcher from the University of Rochester in New York talked about the impact of nature on humans. The researcher noted that numerous studies point to the positive physical and mental benefits of immersing oneself in natural phenomenon.  In the researcher’s newest study he found that the effects of nature which they call a “naturally nice” effect, does not hinge upon immersing yourself in nature on a daily basis but it’s more important to pay attention to the natural elements that we encounter each day.  As the researcher notes: “it’s about stopping and smelling the roses as opposed to passing them by as you think about  your next meeting”.  The researchers found that in fact this “nice effect” can be stimulated by simply having a nature scene as your computer screensaver. This is significant, especially for individuals living in the northern climates, for sometimes winter weather can limit our opportunities to go outdoors.  I guess we could say that these results provide scientific evidence for the importance that nature plays in the retreat experience.  These results would also lend support to the construction of an indoor winter altar featuring nature scenes and artwork.

Yellow Swallowtail

Today we’re stopping by a pilgrimage retreat site in Orlando just up the road from the theme park we visited yesterday. This site is run by the city of Orlando and is entitled the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The site includes: America’s largest camellia collection outside of California; the largest formal rose garden in Florida; a house/museum dating from the 1880s; acres of tropical spring gardens, butterfly gardens and assorted other specialty gardens.  It’s clear why I have classified this location a “nature tranquility” site as it offers ample opportunities for visitors to find solitude and/or to get lost in the beauty of the flowers and joyful fluttering of colorful insects.

Welcomed Garden Visitor!

 Also of note on the history of the garden which ties into our visit to the Monument of States two days ago.  At that site I highlighted the importance of finding meaning in our life and the fact that for many people taking on a “special project” can provide them with a sense of well-being and at the same time serve a greater purpose with their community and nation. Harry Leu’s story represents another example of this search for meaning and the consequences it can have for a community.  Mr. Leu was a hard-working dedicated local boy who worked his way up within a local manufacturing company. He started as a lowly worker, became the “go to trouble shooter” and eventually the owner.

Skipper Butterfly

He and his loving wife traveled the world collecting exotic plants which they carried back to Orlando for their expanding garden.  He was called “the Johnny Appleseed of Central Florida” as he would propagate his plants and then give away seedlings to his neighbors and friends.  He opened his estate and the Gardens to visitors, sharing the beauty and the joy he found in the flowers and butterflies.  After his retirement he and his spouse made the decision to leave their estate including the home and the expansive gardens for future generations.  The property was willed over to the city of Orlando with the agreement that the city was forbidden to sell it or change its “not-for-profit” status.

He found meaning in a life of hard work, he found meaning in a life of exploration, he found meaning in the diversity and beauty of nature, and he found meaning in sharing that joy with generations to come.  He can serve as an inspiration to all of us! I, for one, send out a heartfelt thank you to the universe that people like Mr. Leu inhabited and continue to inhabit this planet we call home.

I hope you have enjoyed this are pilgrimage site visit. Tomorrow we will visit the last of our Orlando sites it brings together artwork, nature’s beauty and light!  Have a wonderful day!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail subscription by going to the upper right corner of this page For more information about the Gardens please visit the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this page.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  74                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 75

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 640

We are such ritual creatures, or at least I’m speaking for myself.  I love my morning coffee, like a Zen monk cherishes his “tea ritual.”  I savor the warmth of the cup, the aromatic steam rising above the rim, and the pungent favor of the first sip. Even before the caffeine has a chance to enter my system I already feel the invigorating effects of the ritual.  What has also become a common component of my routine is for Susan to ask me: “So what are you going to blog about today?”  I sometimes feel that she is asking in the hope that I will report it is already done, “in the can” as they use to say when making movies. My most common response is: “don’t know yet!” 

Andy Goldsworthy's Maple Leaves Arrangement

Andy Goldsworthy's Ice Spiral

I would like to feel that I have joined a very prestigious circle of artists, poets and writers, who simply open themselves to the creative process and watch with amazement as the gifts- the ideas, images, words, topics- stream pass  like a smorgasbord. I am reminded of a scene from a documentary called, Rivers and Tides: Working with Time, which chronicled one day in the life of Scottish Land Artist Andy Goldsworthy.  He creates wonderful images using natural materials he finds on his walks along the Scottish countryside and streams.  In one scene he prepares to leave the house when his wife asks: “What are you working on today?”  He responds that he doesn’t know!  He never does. He lets the gifts he finds in nature such as dandelion blossoms, sticks and stones, colorful leafs and icicles guide the process of creating his artwork. You might label these as gifts from the creative muse, or from nature, or from the divine.  To me it doesn’t matter where they come from, what matters is how you honor these gifts and what you do with them!  I am blessed to benefit from this same process of receiving gifts, whether the medium I am working with is artistic images, poetic words, or blog topics.

“For me looking, touching, material, place and form are all inseparable from the resulting work. It is difficult to say where one stops and another begins. Place is found by walking, direction determined by weather and season. I take the opportunity each day offers: if it is snowing, I work in snow, at leaf-fall it will be leaves; a blown over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches.” Andy Goldsworthy

Yesterday I challenged Dr. Krauthammer, the nationally syndicated political columnist to exercise self-reflection more than once every 25 years. I have decided to hold up the mirror of self-reflection on myself today, in particular on the source of my blog topics.  After a mental review of the 75 blogs I have so far produced, I propose to place them into four groups based on the source that stimulated their creation.  You could even call this the beginnings of a Mandala of my Pilgrimage Journey.  A Mandala is a visual meditative and teaching devise used in many of the eastern faiths.  Its basic structure is a circle divided into four quadrants. But more about that in a future blog!

Andy Goldsworthy's Stone Creation

The first group would include those blogs stimulated by the images I retrieve off the internet, representing what we would see if we were actually riding our journey’s  meandering route.  We started in Key West and today we ride near Tampa Florida.  These images included wildlife, nature scenes and incredible beach sunsets.  The second group includes ideas cued from news reports of current local and world events.  Sometimes they have a clear spiritual significance, like the changes in Americans religious beliefs and practices, other times it might be a tragic event that calls for our prayers. The third group is comprised of topics stimulated by comments from friends, students, and visitors to my blog as well as well as memories of my childhood.  Several of my recent blogs including the Christmas Branch story fits into this group. The fourth group would include my reactions to the specific pilgrimage sites we visit on our journey.  I carry the images of the Holocaust Memorial of Miami with me every day.  I flash back to these  whenever I see or hear of suffering in my immediate circle of friends, or of strangers in my community, across the nation or in the world.

I am blessed to receive many gifts on a daily basis, not the least of which are these sources of inspiration.  A friend recently asked me: “Why do you do this?”  I’m not sure if they meant why do I blog, or why do I reach out to others as a therapist, teacher, parent and friend.

Andy Goldsworthy's Cracked Rock Spiral

In a simple way I desire to have an effect on the world. I hope to leave the world a better place than I found it.  I hope to add my little ripple, my passions for peace and connectedness to the fabric of life.  I desire to add my ripple to the ripples of others creating a wider circle, a larger wave, a force for positive change.  Perhaps we will ultimately dash ourselves against the impenetrable stone fortress of anger, hatred, bigotry, despair and diverseness.  None of us know what the future holds!  But at least we will have tried and I will have left a model for my sons and students of involvement in fighting the good fight and of caring enough to try.

To view more of Andy Goldsworthy’s work and read about his philosophy please visit: http://www.rwc.uc.edu/artcomm/web/w2005_2006/maria_Goldsworthy/TEST/index.html.  Have a wonderful day, stay warm!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 61                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 62

Today’s Mileage: 5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 535

The red line marks our progress.

As I ride the bike today we are preparing to pull into our twelfth pilgrimage site.  Today’s site is unique and some people might question why it warrants a designation as a spiritual pilgrimage site. We are stopping at the Edison Museum and Winter Estates in Fort Myers Florida.  The roadways we have travelled are populated by a great many churches, but finding sites that speak to the wider array of expressions of spirituality can be more challenging.  I happened upon the Edison Winter Estate site at the same time I was researching the Koreshan Unity Village Site we visited last week. 

In the lab!

With the Koreshan movement we had a charismatic leader and followers who combined religious revelations with quasi- scientific thinking to create a utopian dream. At the same time just thirty miles up the road, we find Thomas Edison, who many would view as the archetypical inventor, solving the world’s problems in practical ways.  Through his innovations he created a new world of electrical lights, phonographs, and movies. He accomplished his feats with little formal education and a lot of hard work.  Edison is often cited as an example of ingenuity, perseverance, and a “get it done” practicality. Among his many quotes that adorn bumper stickers, t-shirts and office walls are: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” and “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” He was not theoretical like Einstein; he was practical, hardworking and no-nonsense. “”Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  He reframed the whole concept of failure: “I have not failed. I’ve just fond 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

First Banyan tree in the US planted by Edison in his garden.

His personal spirituality and approach to the divine is less clear. I’ve found references that labeled him as an atheist, an agnostic, a freethinker and a deist.  He attended a Congregational church near his home which in memorial to his membership changed it name to Thomas Edison Congregational Church.

 In a New York Times Magazine interview conducted in 1910 he stated: “Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving… nature made us – nature did it all – not the gods of the religions.”  These remark generated a great deal of controversy, and although he did not allow himself to be drawn into a public discussion he clarified himself in a private letter by stating: “You have misunderstood the whole article, because you jumped to the conclusion that it denies the existence of God.  There is no such denial, what you call God I call nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter.”

Edison statue with Banyan tree.

His involvement with causes such as nonviolence and Civitan appears to attest to his belief in the importance of social action over professed beliefs. A visit to his winter home site also emphasizes the importance he placed on nature, with his beautiful gardens, dock into the bay and cherished Banyan trees. All of this make one wonder if he represents a scientific thinker who experienced moments of nature mysticism.

 Again I am struck by the synchronicity of my site visits. With one site we find a cult-like community, dreaming of changing the world based upon religious revelations and questionable scientific theory.  Its “New Jerusalem” is now a state park housing RVs and sun worshipers. Existing at the same time and just a few  miles away, we find an individual embedded in a practical science, who was described as logical, reasoning and creative.  He surrounded himself with the beauty and inspiration of nature and changed the world! 

Edison provided a source of light, helped capture visual and auditory memories for future generations, provided inspiring words and left us a pilgrimage site that attests to the power of perserverance, creativity and engagement with the world around us. 

Fort Myers' sunset.

To visit the Site please click on the tab at the top of this page labelled Pilgrimage Sites. A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  57                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 58

Today’s Mileage:   10                                          Total Trip Mileage: 512

Today we are heading up Fort Myers beach and will soon turn inland toward our next pilgrimage site. Tomorrow is a special religious day for the Buddhists and a celebration of an important Christian doctrine, the Immaculate Conception.  The following day will represent our two month anniversary on the Pilgrimage journey!

Fallen Giant with exposed roots

As I ride, a specific image hovers in my mind.  Yesterday we strolled along the beach at Lovers Key celebrating the shoreline and the beauty of nature.  One photo displayed a line of dead trees. I called it “Shoreline Sentinels.”  What I did not post was a photo of a tree that had been uprooted.  This scene got me thinking about trees and their spiritual significance. 

Symbolic for many faiths.

Trees have been used as symbols for individuals, communities, and churches.  The roots are the anchor, embedded deep in whatever substrate (dogma) the church holds as truth (sacred scripture and/or sacred experiences). Trees without strong roots might not thrive being prone to fall over in times of  stress in life.  The trunk of the tree must be strong and sturdy, like the structure of a church (leadership, buildings,mission).  A thin or rotten trunk may give way and split in the face of life’s storms. The branches and leaves provide protection from the heat and rain. They capture the light of the divine, transforming it into life giving sustenance (fruit). A sick or diseased tree will not provide fruit or shade and may become little more than a skeleton.  It is easy to see why some of the early earth based wisdom traditions actually worshiped trees. Trees provided shade, shelter and sustenance and were recognized as central to their lives.  Many faiths see in the tree a symbol for the wisdom needed to survive in challenging times.

Shaped by stone and flexability.

 Once a mighty tree falls over, whether at the hands of nature or of man, we are afforded a rare opportunity to see signs of a monumental struggle which all too often goes unnoticed! I became aware of this struggle years ago as I would hike around the “clear cut” areas of southern rural forest land.  In forming their lumbering roads the large metal monster machines would push aside trees stumps exposing the hidden root structures.  I learned to come back a year or two later, after the rains had done their job and the delicate roots lay exposed, the thin root bark peeling away. 

Bonsai Roots!

Swirl and flow.

When the soil was rocky the roots took on the quality of water!  Like a stream or river, rocks did not stop the roots but instead diverted the root’s “flow.”  Roots would become stunted and twisted, sometimes forming a bulb or a disk.  If you pulled away the loose bark you might find swirls and eddies etched into the wood, like fossilized patterns of flowing water. We tend to take it for granted that the tree’s struggle is with the elements above the ground, the wind, fire, lack of rain, insects like the pine beetle and crowding of neighbors. From the moment the seed sends out its first root, the struggle between life and the inanimate world begins and continues till the inanimate world wins!

Old man with tablet!

Several years ago in a shop featuring items from China, I came upon a piece of artwork.  Into a tree root had been carved the figure of an old Chinese man.  It was one of several different root carvings in the store.  However, this one was special, for embedded deep within the wood protruded a square rock, like a book or tablet.  The natural curve of the wood, like the old man’s arm, cradled this inanimate object like it was a sacred text.  I purchased it on the spot!

Recently when I visited the store they remembered me as the guy “who bought the carving with the stone.” It’s a powerful image and symbol!

It makes a statement about the constant, even if unseen struggles of life.  It speaks to the need for persistence and flexibility in meeting life’s challenges.  Obstacles can strength us, impediments can be incorporated into our structure, even in death we can be a source of wisdom about the process of life. This is the “wisdom of the wood.”

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