Archive | January 30, 2013

The tree and the girl

Once upon a time there was a tree. He was an old pine tree. He’d stood there in the forest for many, many years. He’d stood in the forest through fires and floods. He’d stood there in spring and in fall. He stood there in snow and when bear and rabbits went by. He’d been standing there when people passed him wearing skins and hunting the deer with bows and he stood there now watching people build a camp for children.

He watched with great curiosity. No one had ever stayed near him for very long and so he watched. When the camp was built and tents were all put up children started to play around him. He enjoyed this. Some of them hugged him. Some sniffed him and argued whether he smelled like vanilla or butterscotch. Some leaned against them while they read books. Some just curled up at his feet. He thought that was the best.

He wondered if Gaia watched these children the way she watched over him. Gaia sometimes came to visit with him and he thought he’d talk to her about the children next time she came. Or maybe he’d just give a passing jay a message to pass on. There didn’t seem to be any great hurry.

He stood at the edge of an area that they had talks around a fire circle. He didn’t like being so close to the fire but they controlled it carefully and he really didn’t like that they had cut down a lot of his friends to use for log benches but he thought the talks were interesting some of the time and just plain silly some times.

One day a group of children came to listen to a man. He said he was a missionary. The tree didn’t know what a missionary was. The tree instinctively didn’t like this man. He was dark in a way the tree couldn’t explain just that he was dark.

A small girl leaned against the tree and got her self cozy at his feet and the tree felt happy. This little girl had chosen him all week to lean against and he had watched her go through camp. She was always humming and singing. He’d noticed she liked to sing a song called “This is my Father’s World.” He wished he could tell her it was really her Mother’s World not a Father’s World.

He hadn’t been really listening until the little girl started to push herself into his bark. He started to listen and then he started to get angry. He heard the missionary say that the world was evil. He heard the man say that it wasn’t the Father’s world it was Satan’s world and that the world was a terrible and bad place and he saw the little girl cringe and he knew he had to do something. He gathered himself together. He wanted to speak to the little girl but how? He finally decided he would try and talk to her the way he talked to Gaia. So he thought, “HE LIES!”

The little girl looked startled and turned around to study the tree and she nodded at the tree. She leaned back against the tree and he knew somehow that she no longer believed the man. She left the camp a day later and he thought he saw her again many years later but he wasn’t sure. She had grown and stretched up a lot taller but she sat against him with a smile during the night’s campfire program.

The tree never knew that that day everything had changed for that little girl. She had heard the tree. And later when she heard about Gaia she knew what she heard was true. And she always remembered the tree and thought of him fondly once in a while sometimes even when writing stories.

No frills please

It’s funny what sticks from the religion of my childhood. I was raised in Presbyterian household when I was living with my parent but in the summers I spent with my grandparents I never had to go to church. Our Sundays and just about any other day we were outside. Either in the garden or out going to places in nature or where there were animals.

Even at home though ,Dad or Mom was taking us to the Natural History Museum or one of the Botanical Gardens or just a park near home. And the only time I ever heard anything against nature was my one hostile run in with a missionary and even that was a blessing since it was the first time a tree talked back to me.

Mom or Dad’s answer to almost any problem was “go outside” and so I would go sit under a tree or sit on the swingset under our redwood or lie in the grass of our huge backyard.

My church will always be the trees but even if I had to go to our physical church it was comfortable. Presbyterian Churches by and large are churches of wood and stone. The only decorations are carved wood or stone. No statues of saints, no gaudy hanging, a plain altar table of wood stands in the front of the church. The colour comes from the stain glass on the walls and even those are scenes of nature. Jesus and a lamb in a field of flowers and greenery or some other Bible story .The only one I can think of that depicted something inside was poor John Knox exiled to a small window in the narthex.

Services are similarly without a lot of pomp, a welcome from the choir, a hymn, a prayer, the choir anthem, the Doxology, the Apostles creed, a prayer , the offering/ choir song or hymn, the sermon and the benediction often sung. No one parading around in bright robes. Usually the minister had a black robe or a dark blue one. Simple, clean streamlined with purpose and no frills. Those are the things that still inform my practice. I like the simple and the pure. I like the groundedness of it.

When I worked at the Catholic camp, the few times I was required to attend Mass it made me a little crazy with all the extra stuff. I’m not big on pageantry, it quickly brings out the small child from the Emperor’s New Clothes to point out what I see as silliness. You better have a darn good reason to do it. A true discernible purpose to do something in ritual, not something that just says, “Look at me. Look what I can do!”

I think that’s why I found the majority of papers this weekend very good. There weren’t any papers that were really about saying. “Look, I’m a big important pagan, see how important I am!” just a lot of good information and food for thought. There have been other years and that’s when I start hitting the courtyard or talking to people in the halls.

This time I had to hit the courtyard to ground. There was a lot of high powered energy in the room and it was blowing the top of my head off by noon both days. Even when it was raining on Saturday I was outside without a jacket and with my feet firmly planted trying to bleed off the excess energy.

Connected with a lot of old friends and found some new ones including someone else that was trained by their grandmother. I’m always meeting more but Shhh, we don’t exist.