My Friend Maple


Since 1980 I have been living and working here on the land of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph.  During these years many wonderful trees have befriended me in a way that is totally surprising to me. It was a tree that took the initiative in one of the early years.

In  the beginning of May before the leaves had begun to sprout I was making my annual 8 day retreat out at the Old Hermitage.  During that particular retreat I felt invited to read and pray with the book of nature rather than with the Scriptures.

Sometime during those deeply nourishing days I was on a trail close to the hermitage admiring a magnificent old maple tree.  I felt the tree drawing me to itself and suddenly I was taken up into its strong arms and in a few minutes I was up as far as a person could possibly climb delighting in the view of our 600 acre farm and many kilometers beyond.

Over the years this maple and I have become close friends.  Almost yearly, until I had to undergo surgery to replace a worn-out hip I continued to be drawn to my maple perch high above the earth.  As the muscles around my titanium hip regained their strength I began to carefully renew my annual climb.

However as I approached my mid-eighties it seemed it was time to reconsider not only for my own sake but the tree itself now also showing signs of ageing. Although this tree is the strong silent type we managed to come to a mutual understanding; we will continue the friendship with occasional visits but with no more climbing.

Bill Clarke, SJ, is a member of the team of spiritual directors at Loyola House of Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph and continues his commitment to L'Arche.

  • Peter Chouinard
    Posted at 06:21h, 15 November Reply

    From Bill,

    You are a delight! May God continue to bless you and your maple tree in new and surprising ways. I find trees that have been part and are part of my life also speak to me in various ways. Whetßher it’s a ‘burl’, a branch or just the hugeness of the tree. Moved by the spirit these trees sway with the wind creating beautiful sights to behold.

    Thanks Bill for sharing your maple experience with us.
    Peter Chouinard
    Willow Grove NB

  • Peter Chouinard
    Posted at 06:21h, 15 November Reply

    Whoops…it should have read Fr. Bill, not from Bill.

  • Susan Tomenson
    Posted at 14:49h, 15 November Reply

    Thanks, Bill, for your sharing of your relationship with your Maple Tree. I, too, have a relationship with a “Canadian Maple” tree planted in Wilcox Park in Westerly, Rhode Island in memory of my mother in 2002 by good friends. I visit the tree when I stay with my brother who lives in Westerly. I was there for its planting in 2002 and have watched it grow ever since. So in person and in pictures I watch it growing and changing from from season to season.
    Your sharing prompted me to share this with you.
    Bye for now- Susan

  • Sr. Rosemary McGinn C.S.J.
    Posted at 21:04h, 15 November Reply

    Bill,your Maple Friend is a Gift to Creation.Thanks for your delightful story and friendship to this beautiful Tree. It truly symbolizes the Gift of your life to all of us,who have had the priviledge to walk with you on the land at Guelph. Blessings .

  • Katherine Arbuthnott
    Posted at 08:52h, 16 November Reply

    Thanks for this! A Manitoba maple tree growing in our yard in Moose Jaw was my stalwart childhood companion, providing a lovely perch for my reading, and for getting above the fray of my brothers’ tussles when I needed to. That tree and its loving branches were instrumental in helping me cope with my mother’s death when I was ten. Thanks for calling those memories to my mind.

  • Carol von Zuben
    Posted at 21:13h, 16 November Reply

    Thank you Father .Trees and their fruit have always been very special to me. One afternoon in late September 1985, as i was walking along Beverley Street ,after teaching all day ,a ripe and prickly chestnut fell out of a very old tree and landed on my knapsack. I stopped there and opened this beauty to find 2 glorious, shining chestnuts inside. I was on my way to Rosars as Elliot MacGuigan had died that week.My thought was that Elliot would like to have those chestnuts so I placed them on his coffin and no one seemed to notice . The following week I had a call from one of the nurses at the Infirmary at Manresa , asking me if I would know who might have left 2 chestnuts on Elliot’s coffin —- his sister had made the request . In speaking with her , she told me how much Elliot had loved chestnuts as they had two chestnut trees 0n their front lawn. She thanked me .

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