Friday, 26 May 2017

The lesson of aspen


This isn't just a twig blown off a tree by the brisk breeze, it's relief for aching muscles. This is aspen. When I find these, I snip off the leaves, then peel the bark off the twig, or if it's really small, just cut it into pieces. I put the bark & twigs into a jar, pour olive oil over it, let it sit 6 weeks or more. The end result is a light green oil that is just wonderful for aches and pains, especially when they're due to tension, so the oil can cure headaches as a 'side effect'. By encouraging tissues to relax and allow the body's own recovery process to reach deep inside them, aspen doesn't just cover up the pain, it facilitates healing. If you have aspen trees, you'll find these everywhere after any windy day, all spring and summer long. Cottonwood works too.

It blows my mind every year when I gather up those twigs. It makes me feel cared for, right down to my bones. As the years have gone by since we got here I've been brought to my knees, both literally and figuratively, nearly every day, 3 seasons a year, to gather, while giving thanks, something healing or nourishing. And in the 4th, winter, there isn't a day goes by that I don't send up a prayer of thanks to the Creator for the teas and infusions, jellies and preserves, ointments and tinctures that keep us (reasonably) healthy.

Our health isn't perfect, and we don't expect it to be. We suffer the same, various physical 'issues' as anyone else at (ahem) late middle age. I'd venture to say we're in better shape than we would be without these gifts, but the point is that whatever healing we get from them comes right from the hand of God. We don't face the fragility of physical existence alone, we face it with His hand to support us.

So when I spread my toast with wild grape and hawthorn jelly, it's not only because it tastes amazing (which it does) and reminds me of the gorgeous late summer's days I gathered those fruits and sang at my stove while I cooked them into glistening jelly. It's not only because hawthorn is nourishing to the heart and grapes to the circulatory system. That jelly is evidence of my covenant with God.

The only way I know to show true gratitude for a gift is to use the gift. I am not only grateful for the gifts of these fruits and twigs and roots but grateful that by the grace of God I am aware of them. That is the gift, the first gift He gave me, gives us, that awareness. We all have it, deep down, and we're all reaching for it in our own way. Just that some - maybe, sadly most - of us are reaching for it in a package or bottle or capsule because we've been taught, wrongly, that we don't dare reach up into the tree for that apple.

Somewhere along the way the story of the Fall got all twisted and we started blaming the fruit.

                                                          It wasn't about the fruit.

It was about turning away from what He provided for us. It was about deciding that we knew better. And that is exactly what Big Herb says to you when it tries to sell you God's gifts in 'purified' form. The commercialisation of Creation - God's gifts to us - is the Fall all over again. It grieves me to watch good people, people of faith, fall for it.

I am so deeply grateful for, and humbled by, the gifts He showers on us all. So deeply grateful, too, for the great big compassionate heart He gave me, and I've finally learned to turn that compassion towards myself. I no longer beat myself up for what I was led to believe was my sin of pride. I've struggled with that sometimes, that pride I feel for heeding the voice that led me along this path. And why not? It's the pride of serving, of standing in the light of His glory. I bask in that when I pick up a fallen twig from the path under my feet.

I've been hesitating to write here for a while because I didn't like the sound of my own voice. I was swinging between ranting and bragging - or so it seemed. But then I thought, no, this isn't wrong, this is honest. I rail at people for being blind because I know if I can see, so can they, if they would only try. I 'testify' about the wonders that surround me so that others can know they still exist in this world, and if they want to, they can have them too.

The lesson of aspen is that God is generous. He is the definition of generosity. Turning away from the fruitfulness of our world as He makes it, preferring it neatly packaged and 'purified' might be seen as, well, downright sinful by some. That's how I see it, anyway.

Yeah, that sounds pretty strong, I know. But if you think about it, I might be close to the truth. Do you trust God? Do you trust Him to move in your life? Then trust Him. Ask Him to give you what you need - not what you want, necessarily, but what you need. Ask Him to restore His justice to your life. Do you think you have the right to ask for that neatly packaged? Or is it better that He decides the form it should take?

Do not envy me, or whine that you can't have what I have, or live as I do with fresh air and clean water and your own fruit trees. Make it happen for yourself. If you know in your heart that you need these things, then tell Him. Whatever it is that you know in your heart that you need, tell Him. He will do as He did for my husband and me, He will open doors, clear paths, miracles large and small will come and the next thing you know you'll be exactly where you need to be, doing what you need to be doing.

God is the definition of generosity. He wants us to have what we need. Our collective problem is that we don't dare ask. That comes from making ourselves small - not humble, small.

When we feel small, we puff ourselves up with false pride, the kind of pride that makes us 'too good' to pick up a mud splattered twig, or too delicate to pick a nettle. When we're humble, doing so is our great honour, and the next thing we know we're participating in a greater glory, literally accepting gifts right from His hand.

Some of you will protest that you can't be trusted to know one twig from another. Or that you're afraid you'll pick something toxic instead of nourishing. Hogwash. God gave you the gift of a brain, use it. Once again, the best way to show gratitude for a gift is to use it. When we come from that place of smallness, we miss out on our greatness. If you believe that He made us - you - in His image, then accept that there is more to you than you know. Accept that He will open your mind, that you can learn to learn.

This blog - my writing - is kind of like an aspen twig. You can step over it, ignore it. Or you can peel off the bark and use it to facilitate your own healing. I like to pretend that I don't care whether my words are of any use to anyone, but actually, I do care. A lot. I am so blessed in my life; I must pass the blessing on any way I can. It's both the least I can do and the best I can do.

I'll be back soon. Be kind to yourselves.


  1. Wonderful post, sister! Truth. I appreciate you sharing these thoughts with me.

    1. Thanks Linda, I appreciate that you always seem to 'get' what I'm saying.

  2. Wow. That was really good. That's not why you wrote it, I know. But your writing draws me out. I appreciate that. I feel some of the same things, but I don't know how to express them in writing. Your way of doing it helps me see how it can be done.

    1. YAY! That's all I'm ever trying to do, show that it can be done, and maybe some how, too.