Our Teachers The Trees
In Letter 101 to Henri Murdoch, abbé de Vanclair, St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes; “We learn more in the woods than in books. The trees and the rocks will teach you more things than you could hear from anywhere else”. I am gradually discovering just how true this is.
For a number of years early in October at the beginning of the Forty Day Institute I have been giving a talk on God Creating. The first time I was to give this talk it seemed important to spend time being out on the land as the final last minute preparation for my presentation.
As I stood amidst some familiar trees it seemed appropriate to listen for a message for the program participants, and to my great surprise there was a clear response; “Tell them we love them”. Thus it became my habit to visit some of our trees each year just before I was to give this talk, and so far I have not been disappointed.
On one occasion I could hear the leaves and the wind whispering to each other and see the branches gently swaying to the wind’s rhythms. I seemed to hear the message; “Tell them to listen and let the Spirit move them”.
The following year as it was raining softly I heard; “Just be there and let God’s grace, God’s love like this rain pour over you and soak into your souls”. Another time I heard; “be still, rooted in the earth of God’s love and be aware of God delighting in you”.
More recently, the moment I step out of our office door a great silver maple proclaimed; “Celebrate!” which is something it continues to do just for me each day as I approach the office door. As these yearly talks continued I was beginning to wonder if I was being presumptuous in always expecting a clear message; however I was assured and deeply consoled as I entered a favorite grove of white pine to my surprise they called me by name; “Hi Bill”.
Now people may be thinking this is all in my imagination. To this I can only respond that St. Ignatius strongly encourages the use of imagination in prayer. Furthermore, when Joan of Arc was on trial her accusers were saying; “All these messages that you claim to be hearing from God are only in your imagination”. Without hesitation Saint Joan replied; “Of course they are in my imagination; how else could God speak to me.”
So yes these messages through God’s precious creatures are all in my imagination; how else could they speak to me?