The Grandma and Grandpa Trees
Beyond utility... a tonglen
Many of you know already that in the past, I have said Jesus was a shaman, a food sovereigntist, an abundance activist, and one who saw the beauty and power in dying like a seed. You know I see the food miracles as a message to the energy of Occupation ... that the Sea of Galilee herself (renamed Lake Tiberius) converged with his spell, his call, to copiously thrust her fish into peasant nets. And that even those nets, busted from the swell of abundance, were left... to follow a one tunic, no wallet healer through a gauntlet of colonial violence that propagandized cooperation as peace.
I've been getting to know an even deeper place in him these days:
His utter compassion for the cooperators ("tax collectors").
Or the opposite... the friends who prayed for a purging and violent fire.
Or for the Roman soldiers, far from home.
For everyone and everything.
For all of life.
It has been a long time now, that he has been my Druid.
These days though… there is a renewal in the way his love catches my breath.
I am ever a fledgling lover ... but I am emptied and consumed... by this outpouring, self-donating presence that at a certain level, is all there is.
On the day I heard about the children in Uvalde, Texas, I went for a long walk.
Tears didn’t come.
I listened to the delight-filled gurgle of spring frogs.
The erotic mating drum of the male Greater Prairie Chicken.
The sensuous honk of geese lovers on the marsh.
I listened to their apparent indifference.
Then I listened more deeply… and knew that each of them were part of holding the whole story.
There are two very tall Cottonwood trees here on the farm. My children call them the Grandma and Grandpa trees. There isn’t a time they pass by them without saying “hello grandma and grandpa trees!” And they run over to touch them… and the branches reach out to bless them.
It wasn’t till I reached these Elder trees that the tears came. I put my hands on their vast trunks, and took off my shoes… and let my naked feet join with their hallowed roots.
Touching the Grandma and Grandpa trees was a window … I saw that in some sense through the process of carbon dioxide absorption, and oxygen release… a kind of tonglen was taking place…
It appears that we in the empirical age have seen only the science and utility of a tree… but that really… they have been filtering the pain and complexity, of local strife, and via their root connections and mycelial communication, they have been joining in, to filter all pain. All violence. All energy that doesn’t serve love.
If artists were trees… if people were trees.
These were rooted tears. With the help of these beings, little finite me was able to draw nearer to the agony of the parents of these precious children - without violating them with my own reactions, my own hysteria… of flooding cortisol and adrenaline.
Meaning… I was able to approach my deepest fear that has become these precious parent’s reality. I was able to tenderly acknowledge my finite mama bear dissociating from the trauma of their unspeakable loss.
Touching these trees, I found myself praying the rosary. By reaching out to the bead of the breast of the infinite Mama Bear… I could with a kind of mysterious and powerful ease, stand between the devil of Profit-At-Any-Cost, and all of our children.
Rooted in these trees, I could bear not only the weight of greed, but the ‘beams of love’. And I became even more determined to touch the roots of things with my art… to offer counter narratives to the lie we have been telling, that commerce can only come through death dealing. That human fashioning can only lead to destruction. That trade and governments can only ever be corrupt, and that there will only ever be two groups of people: the ones who choose this corruption, or the ones who choose that corruption.
What would the world look like if anything we ever bought or sold was somehow the making of something beautiful? Not one thing hawked, not one thing consumed. What would the world look like if consuming transformed into a consummation, of our very selves, into the fire of love.
I’ll leave you with a link to a post the Centre for Action and Contemplation made this week. They curated two of the pieces I’ve done in collaboration with James Finley… one from the Sanctuary album, and one from the Point Vierge album. Whoever thought to put ‘There is a Peace’ and ‘Palace of Nowhere’ together, is deep listener indeed.
I feel it is important at this time to include an excerpt of James Finley’s words from There is a Peace:
“We should never romanticize trauma with spiritual sayings. It is a horrible thing. And it matters that you get as free from it as you possibly can. But you can go through that evolving process in such a way that it becomes a very mysterious place. Namely the place at which your inner peace is no longer dependent on the outcome.
And how are we to discover, now it’s our turn. How can I become like the hero of the human spirit, that looks out at a sometimes cruel, but always beautiful and mysterious world, and offers myself.”
PS- This week my family and I drove to Winnipeg, to take in a Steve Bell and Malcolm Guite concert on Ascension Day. (Our kids call them “the Minstrel and the Bard”. ) After the concert, I met up with Malcolm to sip Laphroig and chat about many things, including my family’s upcoming pilgrimage/concert tour in the UK.
I told him about a song on my upcoming folk opera called Farewell to the Bards… and noted that there is a paradoxical rub inside the song… “farewell… your time has come”.
It was very rich. We so very much need Bards … and Malcolm is certainly one…
… an Inkling in our midst.
Here we are:
This was so beautiful. Thank you. I read it several times.
Oh thank you. I have been circling around my grief for the Ulvade shooting, I teach 3 - 6 year olds, it hits home, your Grandma and Grandpa Trees sharing gave me the rooting to feel and join, as you said, a tonglen.