A rook's coarse cry rends the snowy hush of this pearl-grey afternoon. On my desk awaits a piece of crusty, warm, homemade potato bread - liberally spread with butter. My thoughts turn to the brisk walk I enjoyed this morning...
Fine snow blew from every direction. Stinging my eyes, settling on my nose, eyebrows, and hair, it filled my very soul with vibrant life. Along the paths I tread were birds, birds, birds: a flock of three dozen robins, a brace of red-shafted Northern flickers, a downy woodpecker, and (my favourite) a pair of nuthatches. Drawn by the chatter of birds, I turned into a quiet cul-de-sac, enjoying the view of fast-falling snow upon tall golden grass. Next to that avian sanctuary a line of snow along the trunk of a pine tree caught my gaze. A fir, slanted at a forty-degree angle from earth. How had I not seen it before?
I paused my forward motion to drink in the sight, to ponder this tree's perseverance. Like other trees, it grew straight and up. Unlike other trees, it did so at an angle, rather than perpendicular to the ground. Some hardship or radical impact had drastically changed the course of this pine, yet it remained a tree, growing as it ought.
This gave me pause to think on my own life, and the lives of several of my friends. We do not pursue life at the pace of forty-plus hours a week, an MA or DPhil, spouses and children, or numerous other things many consider the mark of a 'normal' person. We pursue the good life from a different angle.
We study both books and persons not for a diploma, but for the sake of challenging our minds and hearts. We work as a means to keep our lights and heat on, to put food in our cupboards, yes. But we also see work as an end itself, something to be enjoyed; whether it is the work that gives us the funds to put bread on the table, or the work of making the bread to put on that table. When we do not have spouses and children of our own, we learn instead to enjoy the time spent with married couples, children, peers, and those older than we. Being gracious is a continual refining process. Opening my home, pantry, and heart to others takes effort, but the rewards are bountiful.
My friends and I are humans, cultivating life, growing as we ought: toward God, with others, while stewarding the gifts (physical, mental, emotional) given by Providence. Though we desire and seek things that other persons do, we are often seen as 'not normal', because we seek those things differently. We desire friendship, enjoy Beauty, find work cathartic, want to enrich our minds, etc., like any healthy human being ought. Yet those of us who undertake to live fully are seen as stumps, as compared with growing trees.
The fact is, we are much like that fir tree, growing upward and in a linear direction, but at an angle. We are still trees, still growing as we were designed to grow. Our position relative to the ground has simply changed due to hardship or a radical impact... But we are still trees.