“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the different.”
A few months ago I wrote about the oak tree outside my office window. I was waiting, somewhat impatiently, for the tree to change. For it to pull forth its green leaves and create shade for the ground below. Fr it to show its summer-self. My impatience was driven by the sameness of a long, cold winter and my spirit needed the hope of change.
As humans, I think, we tend to long for change while at the same time fearing its impact on the tidy lives we seek to create. As parents or teachers, too often we long for the children in our care to grow, to change toward what we believe will be an easier time,less demanding on us and out time. Those who have walked this path know the folly of such belief. In some respects, the same longing for change takes place in our own lives. We hope for the changes a new job will bring….or a new relationship….or a new city or different house. Perhaps this is all a part of our evolutionary DNA. There is, of course, the change we create by our own intention and also the change over which we had no power. Those same jobs can be pulled out from under us. A relationship fails or another materializes. A transfer to another city, one we hadn’t ever planned to explore, becomes the new address. This kind of change can be seen as gift or curse depending on the lens we wear any given day.
There is a saying that ‘the only constant is change.’ Certainly, there is truth in this. Days move into months and into years….change. Seasons roll round their circle…..spring, summer, autumn, winter…change. Even our bodies in their very make up, skin cells giving over to new ones even in the course of one day…change. Lines appear around eyes that have known laughter in abundance marking the changes of years. We gain a skill one day only to lose it as years progress. All these require a certain response to change.
I, like many people, find myself in the midst of significant change these days. Most of it is not change I instigated but instead is the gift of what it means to hang your star in the sky with a community of other people. In this experience, I am trying to be present to the wisdom of my oak tree companion in my response to changing times. Looking out my window, I am aware of the ways in which this mighty tree bends and pitches with the winds and rain that have been gracing our summer days. Its roots seem to be digging even deeper as it stands tall in a summer that has blown hot and cold, literally. The trunk of this old tree continues to be home to birds and squirrels, a stray chipmunk now and then. It offers itself with such grace and ease while still standing strong, sure of itself. There is such compassion in the way it stands there. As its limbs reach toward heaven and out over the children’s playground, this beautiful source of greenness and oxygen never wavers in it identity, its ‘tree-ness’. It seems to know its purpose, its work, its reason for being in the world. I have no idea how old the tree is but I am sure it has been around long enough to have been witness to all kinds of change. Change in a neighborhood, a city, a people, a place. It has become a model to me of sheer groundedness.
In just a few short weeks, this oak tree will begin the change of letting go…..an ever present requirement of change. But before it begins the slow, slide into winter, its leaves will turn brilliant colors and create a beauty that can only be brought about by change, by leave-taking, of all that has gone before. It will open itself to wind and colder temperatures and will become something new, its autumn self. I will stand witness to its change just as it does to mine. Peaking through the window, tree and woman will watch one another in the change that is always present. In that peaking, may we also see the beauty and the wonder in it all and in our own separate ways, may we give thanks…..for change.