The Ordinary Tree
6:25 am and we sit in the chapel
bleary eyed with sleep, psalm after psalm
and outside the open window with the icons perched precariously
is a tree.
The leaves warrant not more than a passing glance –
just plain old green with a few crab apples,
not even good for flinging, limbs not worthy of a summertime climb.
Even Kujo, the terrier 5x too small for his name rarely marks his territory here.
And yet today, with the cool morning breeze, the quiet stillness,
it’s as if God himself whispers, “Look at me,” and the leaves rustle.
The sound is glorious, the green leaves brim with life, the crab apples invite a thrower, and the limbs beckon a climber. For a moment, the ordinary has become extraordinary.
Another morning in the chapel, windows only cracked against the chill.
The leaves hang on, mud brown and tangy sour yellow. The harsh wind foretells cold, and its rough voice rasps gloom.
And yet later when the sun is at the horizon, but not yet dipped, the world is bathed in gold. The tree is lit from God’s own glory and cries “Look at me!”
Mud brown becomes a wonderous earthy shade and tangy yellow becomes the sweet promise of beauty. For a moment the ordinary has become extraordinary.
The chapel windows are double sealed and no one is without slippers.
The tree whips in the dark wind, and in the pre-dawn we cannot see the branches.
Midday and the snow has fallen.
The branches bear the burden lightly. My kids notice the pure white load on the limbs, and it’s a delightful fairlyland. God reminds “Look at me.” His burden is light and for a moment the ordinary has become extraordinary.
The dawn creeps forward as do the psalms,
and there are no signs of life on the tree.
Grey sticks where there should be buds and there is no green.
Yet on our morning walk and close inspection reveal
teeny-tiny almost green spots. God tenderly calls “Look at me,” and trust for life when there seems none. And the ordinary has become extraordinary.
From 2008-2010, we lived in “an intentional, liturgical community” with a few other families; we did Morning Prayer together Monday through Friday, Compline prayer before bedtime each night and had dinner once a week. It was extremely formative for all of us, and it was during this time that I wrote The Ordinary Tree.