The Mighty Oak: 🌳 Balancing Body, Mind with Spirit
(Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, . . . whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is praiseworthy—think about such things.) Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
My Mighty Oak is admirable and praiseworthy, so as St. Paul suggests in his letter to the Philippians, I think about it. So do our friends who visit us in sunny Florida. Every January, we return to our winter home where this giant oak stands guard behind the house. It commands attention, yet I am merely one of many in its long 200 plus years who stop to admire it.
Everything about our Mighty Oak, from its thickened trunk to its massive outstretched arms is grand. Spanish moss hangs like hundreds of Fu Manchu beards giving the appearance of a wise sage. Indentations where limbs once hung are like wide-opened eyes, watching over us. Trails of dark tears stain the patchy, variegated bark. What joys or sorrows has it seen? What secrets are kept in its deep crevices?
I harbor a longing to be more like this tree: strong, resilient and steadfast with an air of confidence in its longevity. It has weathered hurricanes and droughts; animals boring holes, insects gnawing under its bark, and humans climbing and swinging from its limbs. It has been exposed to all these elements and will still remain here to oversee new generations of residents and kids. And it will be here long after I am gone. Am I really jealous of our Mighty Oak? Clearly, thoughts of my own finality have been weighing heavily on me. As this tree is anchored to the earth, I want to be anchored to this life; to keep growing in this life, to be witnessing life; and especially to hold my young grandchildren in my protective arms.
After this revelation came another. While planting my annuals in large ceramic pots 🌺 under the warm Florida sun, I was relishing how much I enjoy digging in loamy soil. Picking up handfuls of the black dirt rich in minerals and organic matter, I allowed it to crumble through my fingers to feel its goodness. Planting is in my blood. A genomic study of my DNA would most certainly reveal the farming gene. As a young girl, I loved the collective hum of our family farm; a beehive of planters and harvesters. Soil is where life exists.
Soil is life . . . but soil , this earth is not my home . . . this ground is not my forever dwelling place. I am here for a brief visit– a speck of time. I will shed this body and re-emerge as spirit. Is there anyone who does not ponder their own departure? I struggle to understand it.
In years past, death held a different context; more of a distant eternal reward. But that distance between my probable ending and now is getting shorter. In her book, Traveling with Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd, grappling with thoughts of her own mortality, writes:
“One day I will have to forgive life for ending.” Endings. So much for endings. So much for departures. But what about arrivals?
“In my house, there are many mansions.”
“Thou preparest a table before me.”
I am thinking that our ultimate destination is so wonderful it has to be kept veiled from us; otherwise, we’d all be clamoring to leave this imperfect earthly existence. Life isn’t easy yet we cling to it. We fight for it. Loving life is also in our DNA. My Mighty Oak is testament to existence. It is a monument to life: standing tall, exalting virtues of strength and resilience while dancing gracefully with the wind.
Visitors will continue to admire our Mighty Oak. Children will play under its massive arms and it will be my symbol for the full magnification of life: fusing mind, body and spirit. Especially spirit. My spirit, my soul, my eternal energy are boundless. Illusions of separation are earthly. Balancing my knowledge of body and spirit is my daily task.
My Mighty Oak and I welcome visitors.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2 (KJV.)
Kidd, Sue Monk & Taylor, Ann Kidd. Traveling with Pomegranates. 2009. Penguin Books, London.