I actually stopped on my bike ride and did a U-turn to get this photo.
In between us we have a rock wall and a horse pasture, but there is is, one lone tree changed so much that it stands out from all the others, ahead of its time…a tree gone autumn.
I keep thinking about this tree, wondering if our souls do that when we learn something or when God’s preparing us for something. I thought about how sometimes it’s not bad to be different, and of course if this tree were a kid on the schoolyard it would be teased and possibly bullied because it’s ahead of its time.
I came across a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, from The Interior Castle, where she’s comparing the spiritual life to the life of a silkworm, and adds, “When it is full-grown, then, as I wrote at the beginning, it starts to spin its silk and to build that house in which it is to die.”
Do our souls “go autumn” before we die? I asked that two years ago, and I still don’t know. You can look at that tree and know what’s about to come, but the tree doesn’t know. If the tree could see itself compared to its neighbors, wouldn’t it be shocked. “What’s wrong with me? Why am I no longer green?” It might even ask, “Why am I so ugly?” while all the green trees recoil and wonder if it’s catching.
Really, all that’s wrong with this tree is it’s ahead of its time. Maybe it does know what’s to come. Maybe the other trees are the only ones who don’t know.
A friend and I were talking about Jesus as a child, who must have seemed different in some ways, who probably got teased for following the rules and doing his work and obeying his parents. I said to my friend, “How does someone lovingly respond to harassment?” and she said, “He probably prayed for them.” I said, “But as a child, what did he do then, before he grew up in wisdom?”
She thought for a moment and said, “Maybe he just took it all inside.”
We see that during the scourging and the crowning with thorns, where the soldiers insult him and harass him, the ultimate bullies, and he takes it without replying, prays for them in action, and forgives them. Whether he did that as a child, or whether he learned it through practice — I don’t know.
Maybe maturity in the soul is just as visible as that tree in the field, only we don’t recognize what it means.