Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What Lies Below

It was the strangest feeling, one I remember to this day, of somehow being a member of a secret society. As I wandered about carrying my newly-acquired, odd staff I would occasionally pass others carrying the same. Our eyes would meet, briefly, and there would be the light of understanding; the recognition of brotherhood. We shared the knowledge that what we each carried was far more than it appeared to be.

Tired of sedate gray, wet days, we had ventured into the huge Seattle Garden Show for an early taste of spring. Our senses were inundated with the sights and smells of growing things - a gardener’s Eden! Mostly, we wandered and looked, but I figured we just might come home with a prize or two. My husband and I wander at different speeds, so agreed to go our separate ways and meet up later at a certain time and place. Strolling among various flowers and shrubs carefully laid out in intricate indoor gardens, I saw a great many plants I loved. What I ultimately chose to purchase, however, was not all that spectacular. A large bundle of them was displayed and the price was right. I hurried on to our meeting place clutching my prize - held upright so as not to poke anyone. I sincerely hoped the four foot long, crooked, leafless branch would be worth the trouble of carrying it - around the pavilion, through the city streets down to the dock, across the Sound on the ferry, and in the car back home.

It did not disappoint me. The essential ingredient was water, and plenty of it. We set the lower end of the branch in a bucketful and left it there. It was not long before fine, white threads appeared, grew, and branched out until they filled the bucket. Tender, bright green leaves sprouted from the spindly top. It was then time - we carried it down to the waterlogged area beside the pond, dug a hole big enough for the root mass, plopped it in, covered the roots with wet soil and left it on its own.

That was some years ago and the spindly, crooked branch is now a 25 foot tall willow tree. Commonly called a corkscrew or curly willow, it has thrived and grown strong in its place by the pond. Its branches live up to the name, growing in random, crooked fashion and giving the whole tree a disheveled, Bohemian look. Its myriad branches and small, narrow leaves give birds a well-protected place to hang out; their songs emanate from there in the spring and summer, although it is hard to spot them in among the greenery.

In years with heavy infestations of the tent caterpillars, it has not escaped the carnage. Some years we’ve worried as it’s been stripped nearly bare by the voracious gnawers whose webs have been too high to do anything about. But it has survived, putting out new growth when the worms are gone and coming back full and green the following spring. It continues to provide many small creatures with shelter, food and shade.

As I gaze at its strange, wiry silhouette each winter, I’m mindful that what we see is only half of what there is. Below ground its massive root system continues to branch out and support it - as long as it has water.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:3

...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

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