“Every day I die again and again I’m reborn
Every day I have to find the courage
To walk out into the street
With arms out, got a love you can’t defeat
Neither down nor out
There’s nothing you have that I need
I can breathe, I can breathe now”
She picked up the old tin can and a stick and went out into the street – started banging and smiling at passers-by. Her old wooden soap box – surely it had never contained soap? why soap? – was still there, kicked out of the way at the end of last season, lying on it’s side against the trunk of the huge tree under which she loved to shelter. This was her patch, scene of past proclamations, moving memories. Her old, fondly-remembered box was weathered and dirty but still strong enough to hold her weight as she righted it and stepped up, still battering the can with her makeshift drumstick. A small group of people were starting to gather round, watching from a short distance away, wondering what would happen – she might fall off, for instance, that would be a sight.
There were a lot of others up and down the road, spread out at intervals, standing on their own soap boxes, raising their voices, making themselves heard. It seemed everyone had something to say – how could the listeners know who would be worth stopping for? How did they even have time to stop? It was all a bit of a lottery – an impressionable pundit could as easily become a Jehovah’s Witness as a Marxist or a Vegan if he loitered in front of the right (or wrong) person. There was no doubting the passion and commitment of the speakers expounding their different themes. They were willing to stand up and stand out, face cynicism and maybe abuse, with the art of communication as their only tool. It takes some guts, some conviction, some sense of importance to declare your message to others. What was her reason, her message?
She raised her eyes over the heads of the crowd as they drew closer to listen and saw the sunlight pouring out from behind a dark cloud and smiled. There is the light of hope: no matter how dark, the sun is always there. She knew she was in position, obedient to the call – it was never possible to plan far ahead, living a day at a time, just taking the next right step. I’ve come this far, but now what? Could it be that there were no words today… really? How very embarrassing! Expectant faces were turned up, mouths slightly open as if to catch the pearls of wisdom falling from... don’t fool yourself, woman, they all have teeth in those mouths! Is silence all you have to offer? She couldn’t just make something up, that wasn’t the inner script… “Look!” she cried, pointing at the sky behind them, As she’d hoped, every head turned at once…
…and she jumped backwards off her box and slipped behind the big tree trunk before anyone saw her. “Whaaa….? Where….?” noises, muttering, movement… silence. Phew. She stayed hidden, still, feeling the presence of the ancient tree and let everything settle inside. That wasn’t what I was expecting… never a dull moment!
The tree was tall, trunk wide with age, sturdy, immovable – an old friend. She leaned against the rough bark and gazed up into those branches, brought alive by sunlight. So very beautiful. Who needs words, really? The tree is speaking without them, if you listen with your soul. Surely silence comes before noise, hearing before speaking? There’s no integrity in spouting something you’ve learned by rote, something you think you should say, something that used to be true in another life or somebody else’s life. Much better to let inspiration rise from the roots of who you are, all you’ve learned, the person you have become. See that growth? It took time. See that canopy? This tree knows it’s boundaries, where it’s influence extends and ends. It’s not trying, it’s just BEing – a tree. It bends with the wind, drinks the rain, dies back in winter to show its true shape. When the warmth returns the buds grow and in time produce new leaves to catch the sunlight, create shadow and beauty and, most amazingly of all, use their green chlorophyll in photosynthesis making food for the tree and oxygen for our atmosphere out of waste carbon dioxide – of which the planet has far too much. This tree is surely a symbol of life on earth. She is glorious!
I want to be rooted like this tree, she thought, drinking from a deep source, growing with the seasons and producing life. My life is like this – I was a sapling once, but now I have grown tall with many branches. Yes, birds do come and nest in me, land on me, (poo on me!) I have become a feature of the landscape, along with all the other trees of different sorts – no better, no worse, just complementary. I am planted in God’s garden, pruned and cared for so that I display the splendour I was born to reveal. Nothing else is required – just rest, receiving and photosynthesis in the sunshine. When the wind comes I will hear the sound of it and join with the birds to sing the song of the tree! I will sigh in the summer breezes as people rest in my shade and let go of my leaves and broken branches when the storm rattles though. There will be beautiful days when I will sway and hum, days of celebration when I’ll clap my hands! It is safe to trust the seasons. I will be silent and listen for the sound… and then, when I hear it, I will know exactly what to shout..
“We are people born of sound
The songs are in our eyes
Born to wear them like a crown
Walk out into the sunburst street
Sing your heart out
Sing my heart out
I found grace inside a sound,
I found grace, it’s all I found – and I can breathe, I can breathe now ” (U2 Breathe)
Thanks Bono. At least I encouraged myself today, she mused as she walked home, smiling and singing.