By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator
For the past four days I was at the Lutheran Volunteer Corps Mid-Year Retreat. It was wonderfully refreshing and gave the 19 LVCers in WA a good chance to relax in community with one another. On Sunday I had the chance to take part in my first ever silent retreat. From 10:30 until 4:45 there would be no talking amongst the group. We were encouraged to find a place and meditate or simply sit. I used this opportunity to sit with a tree as I wrote about in my last blog. After spending the morning journaling in my room and then napping a little (napping is silent, right?!), I set out on a hike to find a tree...or more appropriate, allow a tree to find me.
The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech...Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear friends, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not...I passed by the cabins at the retreat center, found my way to the muddy hiking path, and started out. The trail took me to a part of the forest marked "Fern Gully". If there was ever a place to sit with a tree, this had to be it. A few paces into Fern Gully I found myself in front of an enormous old pine tree that had a perfect little stump in front of it for me to sit on. My tree had found me. I then realized I had overlooked something when imagining this act of love towards all creation....I would be sitting in solidarity with only a tiny portion of the whole organism! Taking up my position at the base of the trunk, I was amazed to see so much moss growing on the bark. Dark green, light green, gray, brown, so many colors. I moved my face in real close so I could see into every nook and cranny. After some more observation I closed my eyes and just sat with the tree. I imagined I was invisible. After a time of silence I was struck by how peaceful it was in the woods....and that the tree experienced that peace all the time. The more I thought about it the more convinced I was that peace is really all a tree could ever want. Anything beyond is unnecessary. Simple peace. This tree I was sitting with was doing only job it ever could: live. It did this peacefully with all the other organisms surrounding it. What would it look like if I simply lived? Gave up my worries, my wants, my inner chaos and just did what came peacefully and naturally to my soul. How would such a life look? I took off my glove and stood with my hand on the tree (Vulcan mind-meld style, for those who know the method) and meditated on the word "peace" with the tree. After a few minutes I stepped away and quietly headed back towards camp. I know my "act of love" for this week wasn't earth shattering or epic, but it was a way to connect with the greater circle of life that often gets overlooked as I bustle about my day. It centered me in Creation and I hope the tree in Fern Gully is feeling a little more peaceful as a result.