Day 4 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
Today’s spiritual reading comes from the writing of photographer William Guion, who describes an oak tree leaning over a pond and how it speaks to his situation at the time. His reflection is based on his photograph Leaning Oak and Reflection, New Orleans, 1991.
Here’s a snapshot from his reflection:
“A thin mist fell, or more accurately, hung in the air. Rain had soaked the landscape during the night, and mud at the water’s edge sucked at my shoes. In the yawning light, I saw an oak leaning at a precarious angle over the water. The soil had eroded over time, dissolving much of the tree’s foundation, yet the oak’s roots were locked tenaciously into the receding land. Against the threat of drowning, this tree survived through an elegant dance of balance, perseverance and heroism. Almost in praise, the pond mirrored the oak’s profile creating a beautiful mandala-like wheel with spokes of water, leaves, earth and light.”
How often have we lived life on the edge? How often have we operated within our comfort zones, within safe boundaries, never really stretching outside of ourselves?
Oh, the uncertainty of life.
When we are faced with a decision that could change our lives forever, we tend to go back and forth in our thinking. We play out the possible scenarios in our minds; we carefully weigh our options. The mist of doubt often clouds our vision. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do or expect. In our impatience, we want answers, and we want them NOW. But the truth is, we won’t know what happens until we do it, whatever it is.
That “thin mist” of uncertainty or doubt that hangs in the air, still and unmoving, will remain until we make a move. When we act, when we make a decision, we begin to move in the direction of choice. As we set things in motion, the universe begins to move and conspire, and we find the mist beginning to dissipate. Then we can move forward toward our vision.
The “rain that soaked the landscape during the night” has made a mess of things in our own interior landscape. It has loosened our foundation, making it difficult to traverse the land. We get stuck in the “mud” of our old thinking, our old ways, unsure of doing something new and different. Every time we try to make a move, the mud sucks at our feet, trying to hold us back, as if saying, “No! Don’t go!” Our old ways do not want us to abandon them.
But “in the yawning light,” what was once indiscernible now comes into view. Our weeping may have endured for a night, but joy now comes as we realize the direction in which we must go.
The “oak leaning at a precarious angle at the water’s edge” reminds us of our position. We are at the edge of something big, something great, something heroic, if not to others, to ourselves. This is a big step. All of this time we’ve been playing it safe, doing what we thought and believed we should be doing or doing what was expected of us.
But something inside of us is s t r e t c h i n g us to reach further as we struggle between what should I do and what do I want. This is the crux of the matter, and so we stand on the edge of an uncertain future, “locked tenaciously into the receding land” of our old life, but desiring more by leaning forward over the “pond” of the unknown.
No matter what happens, we will survive. Our decision may be life-altering, but it is not life-or-death by any means. We come to see all the “rain” — the grief we endured in our dark night — as our baptism into a new life. And as we see the oak’s profile as a “beautiful mandala-like wheel with spokes of water, leaves, earth and light” mirrored in the pond, we glimpse ourselves in a new form, reborn.
And so we are transformed.