Mid-September is Carnival of Flowers time, an event celebrated annually in the mountain city I call home. This year, my husband and I wandered through the colourful vistas of Laurel Bank Park. We began our stroll in The Scented Garden which is a delight for the senses and a feature for those with visual impairment. I brushed the leaves of several plants, releasing their spicy aromas, appreciating their textures, this one crinkly and crisp, that one soft and furry. I was focused on the immediate, the close personal experience, until I rounded a bend in the path and saw, right there in front of me—
Two ordinary ladies. Blocking my progress.
They weren’t brandishing guns or wearing backpacks filled with explosives. They weren’t weird. They weren’t sinister. They looked normal and content. I confess, the fiction writer in me was a tad disappointed.
What were those ladies doing? They were holding their phones aloft, photographing a tree. A truly magnificent tree. A tree I would have missed completely if not for their actions. Like a positive book review from a fan, or an enthusiastic tweet about an upcoming release, their focus and appreciation drew my attention to a wonderful creation. The moment they left, I employed my phone’s camera too.
But that’s only the beginning of the story. Their actions also had a profound impact on my thoughts and provoked contemplation. Since then, God has been whispering encouraging messages to me—messages about writing and life—revealed through that experience and the tree.
Taking a photo of that tree should have been easy, right? But no matter where I stood, I couldn’t frame or even see the whole tree. My perspective was limited. Only God (or possibly someone riding a hot-air balloon) could see the whole of that tree at once.
God’s perspective is never limited. He sees the whole picture. He sees the reason and purpose behind each and every action he calls us to take, and each and every thought he wants us to write down.
It was late in the day when that tree captured my attention. As the sun set and the light changed and the shadows grew and the darkness entered, that tree did not deviate from its purpose. It kept standing. It kept growing, remaining true to its essence, its DNA. And it kept whispering truth to me.
When did God call you to write?
Last week? A year ago? When you were a child?
Before the foundation of the world?
I thought about how very many decades that tree had taken to reach its current stature. How, as a small seed, it was planted and nurtured by people and nature. How it was fertilised, treated for insect attack or disease, pruned (it probably didn’t enjoy that much).
Have others nurtured you in your calling? Helped to establish you in it? Fed you? Protected you from interference, discouragement, or attack? Helped you shed unproductive habits?
Have you, likewise, nurtured others in their calling?
Late to bud after a harsh, dry winter, that tree looked stark and bare, remaining dormant till conditions favour letting those new shoots loose.
Is God calling you to write something new? Or to pick up the pen that has lain dormant through a long, cold, dry winter? Is it time to edit that stubborn draft? Enter that competition? Learn a new skill? Have you noticed the arrival of Spring?
Other gardens in the park were awash with colourful blooms. I had fun trying to name the various plants. I personally could not identify the species or genus of my talking tree. The person who planted it possibly needed to know, needed to understand its expected growth pattern, where it belonged in the park. My ignorance didn’t make the tree any less valuable or amazing. I loved the singular tone and tome of that tree just as much as I loved the sweet aroma of the massed planting of stocks, the elegant gentility of the tulips, and the bright, bouncy freedom flaunted by the poppies. Each had to grow into what they were meant to be and appreciated for what they are.
Likewise, a writer’s ability to identify, establish and conform to genre expectations is useful. But remember, reading and writing outside or beyond the norms, form and limitations of genre can be an exhilarating, enlightening and liberating experience.
As I pondered each of these analogies whispered by the One who created the tree and created me, I felt a calming inner peace, reassured in my calling and in God’s timing. There is indeed a time and a season for every activity and purpose under heaven.
Then I had one more thought … trees allow our words to live on in print, for a very, very long time.
What have the trees, or their Creator, been whispering to you?