Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Series of Adjustments

Life is a series of adjustments” my father said on occasion, especially when discussing tough times or decisions within our family or country. I never fully appreciated nor understood these words until I became an adult and faced life full-on. If we are to flourish, or indeed survive at all, adjustments are not only desired, but necessary.

Change is all about us - in the weather, our relationships, the government... most certainly the economics. Just how do we adjust to the changes, the uncertainties, the looming unknowns? One step at a time.

One answer I have found lies in the time of my mother’s death. During our family gathering around her funeral, I sought solace, as I often do, by connecting with nature and the forces that are greater than myself. It was February - much milder than normal for that time of year in Montana - and I needed no jacket as I walked around my family home noting the details of the oh-so-familiar yard. It was then I discovered the crocuses, in full glorious bloom much ahead of schedule. Through my tears of grief I smiled, remembering Mom’s love of all growing things, that surely she planted these, and that new life springs eternal if we can only hang on and hope.

Winter has not yet left us, but new life is all around. Take a quiet, leisurely walk and resolve to be fully in the moment, observing what is right before you here and now. Willows and alders thrive in poor, damp soils and are among the first plants to quickly grow in any disturbed area. Already they, along with wild hazelnuts, have formed catkins and are inching their way toward spring and continuing their species. Never mind that we only just had freezing temperatures and feet of snow - wild things adjust and life goes on.

Alders produce millions of tiny, light seeds which are carried readily by wind over most of the area west of the Cascades. They grow quickly, readily sprouting from stumps and shallow roots as well as seeds. Able to withstand light surface fires and severe outbreaks of tent caterpillars, they eventually succumb to heart or root rot. They are not shade-tolerant, so give way to evergreens which eventually tower above and crowd them out. They suffer multiple afflictions, but alders help create conditions favorable for the giant conifers that replace them.

Because their seeds are tiny, frail, and usually do not germinate in dry or shady sites, willows produce huge numbers, each equipped with a tuft of down to catch the wind. Willows survive even without seeds - new stems sprout readily from stumps or broken-off twigs. What zest they show in their growth until they, too, are eventually overshadowed, having stabilized and cooled the soil so that those that follow can thrive.

Hazelnuts prefer well-drained soil and will tolerate fairly heavy shade, so often are found growing beneath tall, old trees and along the edges of wet sites. These wild relatives of the nuts we enjoy are edible, rich in protein and fat, and are favored by a number of animals. Faithfully they product fruit, year after year.

Alders, willows, hazelnuts, and us - each has strength and weakness and each thrives where it is planted if it can adjust. Life requires myriad adjustments and in those we can find hope. Never underestimate the power of HOPE.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with God’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:11-13

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