Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greg and Chris

A large tree on our property was struck by lightning a while back and the bolt was fatal. The tree died, perhaps instantly, I am not sure. I do not know much if anything about lightning bolts and mortal strikes to trees. The tree was enormous and was the last one on the right as you approach the main building on the long monastery entrance off Highway 212. Augustine told me this morning that two men would be coming today to remove the tree. He knew I would want to take pictures.
I met Greg first. He was standing with Augustine and they were gazing upward at Chris, who was slowly inching up to the upper level of the tree. He was fastened to the trunk with ropes and had managed to toss high above him some kind of roped device that hooked on a high limb which left another length of rope dangling within reach near Chris. Later I would see how he used these ropes to attach limbs before he cut them off the tree. When the limbs fell, the ropes would control where and how they fell. I suppose that the same would have been true if Chris slipped and fell, but he looked quite secure and sure footed up there. Chris called down for some something to drink and Greg ran over to their truck and retrieved a bottle of some kind of cold juice from a cooler, fastened it to a rope which was lowered by Chris, and up went the plastic bottle. Chris yelled down thanks. Greg kept an eye on him all the time as we chatted. Augustine smiled with admiration at the obviously expert maneuvers executed by Chris – how he swung and climbed, measured and cut, tied and let go of the severed limb, and then moved a bit and started all over again on another limb. “There must be experts for anything you can think of,” said Augustine.
Greg offered us something to drink and I was not thirsty right then. Later, Augustine went off and came back with some bottles of water. By then Greg was starting to cut the freshly downed limbs and placing the pieces into his truck. All the while, Chris swayed high above, sawing away at the limbs.
Several people passed by. Alex, our jack of all trades, came by in his truck and stopped and chatted. And Wayne, a policeman who used to work for us, also stopped as he drove through the gates and it was good to see him. Several retreatants walked by and they, too, paused to look up at the tree operation and talked a bit. Jackie is originally from the Buffalo, New York area and she lit up with glee when Augustine asked her if she was of Polish descent. He then noticed the look of wonder on my face and told me that a lot, like, a whole lot, of Polish people live in Buffalo. I never knew that. Then came Jim, our business manager, and Rick, our landscape man, and Beverly and another Beverly, and Johnny who works down at bonsai, and Eutropius, who is a brother monk and a plumber. And a guy whose name I cannot remember but who does something with our hay fields here paused, too, in his truck and I made a mental not as to how classic his face is and that I hope to take some pictures of him. Brother Mark stopped, too, as did Mike and Brother Laurin. All the while, Chris was busy above, putting his expertise to work.
Greg popped in and out of proximity through all of this. He had his camera and was taking pictures. He pointed his camera high at Chris and then low at us. He smiled as he took each picture and I told him we could easily exchange our photographs. He offered something to drink again.
Chris finished his “up there” work and shimmied down the tree. I walked over to him and introduced myself. He was friendly as can be. We chatted about the tree and lightning and he said that this area is especially prone to lightning bolts because there is a lot of granite in the ground and lightning is attracted to granite. I thought to myself that now I know why this is named Rockdale County. Now I know about the rocks. I have no idea as to the dales. I knew I was in the presence of lightning and tree experts this morning – maybe some day I will meet an expert of dales. Such things can happen. Especially here – it never ceases to amaze me as to the wealth of knowledge that passes through our gates and, in many instances, stays for a while in our retreat house. Jackie, mentioned above, is an artistic designer and offered to volunteer her time and talent in any way she could. She knows that we plan a major renovation of our barn and the surrounding buildings. She also mentioned how special this monastery has been for her, that she finds something here that she knows she won’t find anyplace else.
This Sunday is the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Those words have, I suppose, several coordinates in terms of their placement in the mysteries of this life. The Eucharist is, of course, a main one. But then there is the Body if Christ as the church itself, and the living body and blood that is the people of God – you and me. We do not usually think of ourselves in such terms, especially in the ordinary moments of our lives when we are chatting with each other, maybe even looking heavenward at an expert woodsman and his swaying in the limbs of a tree. But to my way of thinking, and I take heart in knowing that it is the faith inspired thinking of the church as well, we as Christians encounter the Body and Blood of Jesus in its sacramental or ecclesial manifestations and then, upon leaving the church, we as well enter the living Body and Blood of Jesus as he is and truly lives in all that we are and do and see.
Augustine was right. Experts abound and come along when you need them or look for them. Some people are experts in writing some well thought through texts on the Eucharist and the presence of Jesus in and through that form. And there are those who are most at home in the encounter with Jesus in his liturgical context. It may be a stretch for them to ponder his presence in the high and low places of life. But I heard a man call to his friend for water, and the water soon rose high and quenched his thirst. And Augustine and Jackie delighted in finding a common ground in Polish kinship and ancestry. God’s presence is his common ground shared within us all. All the others who stopped by and gazed upward this morning did so with a kind of awe at Chris as he moved so high with a well learned grace.
I thought of God swaying through the at times seemingly futile limbs of our lives, putting his expertise into high gear. We look to the highest of places for a sign of God’s presence and he is here, in us, among us, moving with his uniquely expertise grace.
We take unto ourselves the Body and Blood of Jesus and he becomes us. That is an eternally bonding kinship. It is growing all the time, too. Growing more than our words can ever describe. It transcends our words even as we try our best to describe the mystery we share at such an intimate level that we are of the very mystery we are trying to say.
How friendly it all was this morning, and how so very ordinary.
I took pictures of everyone. Augustine smiled, said that he seems to be best captured in a lens when he is caught off-guard. Maybe God is something like that, as we attempt to wonder and word just how he is in life outside the sanctuaries of our lives. I think he swings high, pruning and trimming life, and offers water for those who thirst and is an expert at finding a way to get it there. He delivers as best he can in high and low places, but needs our bodies to make good the tangible presence of grace. Holiness is ordinary, high and low, off to the side.
People come here because they thirst for something. It is a place where kindness is like water, and gentleness is like rain. It is a place where all can hopefully find something good to drink, and learn to look and listen in this river of life, and offer living water to others. God can make of any human heart a place of refreshment. He is an expert at it. We go about our lives, be they high or low, and he is at work, fashioning our hearts, making them like his own.

1 comment:

4get2remember said...

Very fun and playful writing! Sad that the tree is gone, though...