Sister Carol Ann Wassmuth, Master Forester, amidst young Western Larch trees in the Monastery forest.

by Sister Carol Ann Wassmuth

In April we finally received indications all around us that winter was finally calling it quits. The piles of snow receded, the birds returned, and the underbrush exploded in new growth. The wild flowers made their appearance and the hill behind the Monastery was ablaze with color.

As we live near a conifer forest our trees are green all year. But each spring a bright green growth appears on the tip of each branch as the tree stretches outward and upward to capture the sunlight. The moisture from all that snow that we found so annoying in February seeped into the soil, carrying the promise of new life to our forests and fields. The miracle of spring! These words of the prophet seem so appropriate:

“Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth: the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create.” (Isaiah 65:17-18)

Some years ago I participated in an exercise with a group of friends where we listed all the lessons we could learn from observing a tree. In the end we synthesized our ideas into this poem:

Each tree is unique, but not solitary. Surrounded by other trees
they can survive the harsh wind Knowing when to bend and
when to stand tall and straight.
By putting down deep roots
And opening their branches to the gifts of life.
Where they are planted, they grow.
Simply by being what they are
they purify the air and water
And thereby make life possible on our planet
In giving of themselves they become themselves.

At the end of each summer trees
must be ready to let go
If they want to be renewed.
There is beauty in the dying leaves
Nourishment for the future, hope of the spring.
What appears to be dead is
in reality the beginning of new life.
There is wisdom in simply standing quietly and listening.
For what is heard will be the melody of nesting birds, of laughing children.
The sounds of LIFE and LOVE and JOY.

Maybe you can do a similar activity. Carefully observe some part of nature and take time to listen carefully to the lessons. Remember that God was revealed in creation long before the written word was invented. What is this marvelous world telling you today?