A Heart’s Mirror
In the space of three weeks I have listened to two different people in two different countries speaking about the inner life
of a magnificent tree, saying - in effect - that this tree has begun its dying. One was in Ireland, the second around the corner from where I live.
All I could see was the trees’ magnificence:
fifty feet tall (or more), full reaching limbs overflowing with leaves, one - all green - in Ireland two weeks ago, the second this morning, leaves all gold, in a neighbour’s yard.
second one has been a source of admiration ever since moving here fifteen years ago, and especially in the fall. Its leaves turn gold, with hints of blended crimson spreading outward. This morning, on the way back from the usual walk, two hydro trucks were
parked close to it, assessing it. We stopped to ask about it. “Yes”, said the tree expert, “it has to come down. Its insides are dying, some of it hollow. We have been watching it for a few years.” The next morning, coming back from
the walk it was down, trunk in chunks, the dark dissolving core exposed. Still a beautiful tree.
The first tree was three weeks ago in the large beautiful backyard of the Presentation Sisters’
house in Monasterevin, an hour outside Dublin, a house where Gerard Manley Hopkins used to spend summer holidays in its early years, before the sisters bought it. The huge tree was in a back corner of the yard. They too had brought in tree experts who assessed
its age as well over 200 years old - which means it was young when their foundress, Nano Nagle, first brought the Presentation Sisters into being. Their current leader, Mary Deane, keenly told us how important is the presence of this tree. “It might
stand there for another 40-50 years,” they told us, “but it is hollowing inside. Perhaps it arose with us and will die with us. So we truly treasure this tree and will tend it to its end, as we are doing with ourselves.”
Looking more closely at these trees and all trees now, I stand in awe of the gifts standing all around us, the unknown hidden gifts that are right before our eyes every day, filled with layers of meaning and knowing and relationship. No matter where we are,
no matter how affected we might be with the news of the world, no matter how much illness and sadness and ill will inhabit the close-in spaces of our days, the trees stand. The weather changes. Night and day follow each other. Moon moves through her cycles.
And we, each and all, follow and rise and fall. The question is: do we do so with anger or grace? Do we flow or fight? Do we hold on or let go?
And can we stand before a tree, especially an old tree, and listen, finding a mirror, seeing a companion of the heart?