You’re looking at a tulip magnolia whose days are numbered.
It has scale, a small insect infestation that is difficult to treat. We’re hoping it doesn’t return with a vengeance this spring, but who knows. Treatment options are limited.
The small bugs burrow into the tree, create a hard shell around themselves, drink and then excrete the sap. Ants and bees and wasps and all kinds of critters are drawn to the sickly sweet sap. It’s death by a thousand cuts.
And yet, look at it. It’s so full of life, even amidst it’s dark spots and bare branches. It positively glows in the sunlight. It is alive, even in death.
It’s Easter, right? Death is nothing. There is only life.
Think of the depths of your own person. Your memories, your mixed motivations, your struggles, and your virtues and good deeds and quiet hope shining in the midst of it all.
Often we try to look at our lives as linear affairs. First this happened, then that, which caused this, which led to this, etc.
Or, we expect of ourselves a steady progress, in keeping with the “always getting better” narrative that dominates our ethos, culture, and self-help approaches.
But that’s always limited. A part, certainly, but not the whole.
For one, it’s not how we experience the richness of the world, of nature, of prayer and creativity, which are decidedly circular in character. It’s not distance but depth, it’s not the past versus future but the eternal connection between all times in the presence of present, which gives meaning, direction, and a sense of being intimately present for life, rather than letting it all pass by, one moment at a time.
Moments don’t happen and then another thing happens. Instead, pivotal moments become suns we always orbit, spiraling and spinning and twisting and turning around them, gravity the meaning or lack of meaning we assign to them.
In the end as in the beginning, we reach a limit, a mystery you can’t go beyond. It’s a hint: you won’t find what you’re looking for on the other side of this. Or, what you find on the other side of death, you could have already experienced, albeit in a limited way, in the depths of life itself.
We’re living in a culture that has forgotten about life. Everything is abstraction: it’s money or productivity or technology or even an idea of God that is totally disconnected from the bright, beautiful, wet mess of living a real life.
We’ve codified the days of the week, and our moods and expectations depend on if it’s Friday or Sunday or Monday. It’s a treadmill that keeps us imprisoned and “productive.” It is all so spiritually numbing, everything is simply a means to end, and there are no ends beyond power or control.
Again, we’ve forgotten about life. Power and performance aren’t bad, they just aren’t the whole picture. We mistake a small slice for the whole pie.
Today is the only day, really. The only day to experience the hidden wholeness of life in the depths of this moment. Whether you access these through prayer or ritual or sickness or silence is your prerogative. No one can force you to wonder, or hope, or contemplate the mystery. It’s free. And you are free, too.
That’s the gift. Whether you realize it or not doesn’t matter, whether you awaken to the wholeness shining in all things, or whether you live your life according to a set of mental constructs, is largely your concern. It’s your life, and your happiness, and your blooming and your decaying. No one else can do it for you.
Because it’s all right in front of you, and all around you, and always holding you.
In love, and in you, in a hidden wholeness where all things belong.