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September 2010

The long sleep of trees . . .



This "Tree Child" is posted in memorium for my friend Kenneth Ashburner: scientist, writer, and musician; a leading authority on birch and alder trees; and the creator, with his wife June, of the beautiful Mythic Gardens on the outskirts of our village. He grew a bit of magic in the hills of Devon, and will be deeply missed. A memorial celebration is being held in Kenneth's birch and alder aboretum today; and a charity is being formed to keep the arboretum, seed collection, and Mythic Garden going.

I woke up to this....

Rainbow over the rooftop

When I was 15, I sat in despair one day in a creaky old bus that was winding its way through central Mexico (that's another story), trying to decide if I truly believed in God. Not necessarily God with a big white beard looking down from a Biblical heaven, but some kind of sacred spirit above, beneath, and within all things. I'd aways had a deep, instinctive faith (even as a small child) in a sacred dimension to life, a Mystery I didn't need to fully define in order to know it, feel it, experience it. But recent grueling events had shaken my faith and closed that connection.

I realize that sitting and railing at God is a perfect cliche of teenage angst -- but that doesn't make the experience any less urgent at age 15, and I was in a dark place. "Okay," I said, throwing the gauntlet down to whatever out there might be listening, "if there is something more than this, then prove it. Just prove it. Or I quit."  The bus turned a corner on the narrow, dusty road, and a gasp went up from the people around me. Above us, a rainbow arched through a bright blue, cloudless, rainless desert sky.

Rainbows have been special to me ever since. I know the scientific explanation, of course, water and air and angles of sunlight and all that. But to me, they are always a message. They say: "The universe is a Mystery and you're part of it." And sometimes that's all I need to hear; that's all the answer I need, no matter what the prayer.