I’m writing this while Jim and I are staying with friends in Harbor Spring, MI toward the tail end of our vacation. It has been a glorious 10 days in some extraordinarily beautiful settings, including Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Camping, hiking, kayaking and biking at various points in our trip have rewarded us with breathtaking vistas otherwise hidden from view. Chapel Rock was one such gift.
After hiking through a forest, we were greeted with a magnificent tree standing tall at the top of a series of rock arches and pillars, created some 4,000 years ago. That alone was stunning, but what fascinated me was the root system. In the 1940s, the rock arch connecting Chapel Rock to the northern shoreline fell away, leaving a significant gap underneath the tree’s roots. This didn’t seem to bother the tree, which continues to draws nutrients from both sides of the gap.
Seeing the tree’s tenacity prompts me to wonder about the importance of root systems. When seemingly critical things fall away, having a strong connection to what nourishes us becomes especially essential. Knowing that each one’s list will be different, I have been thinking about my own root systems and what provides me with strength. Certainly being outdoors in this amazing creation is one, and being able to enjoy being active in it is another. My list includes noticing beauty—taking time during my day to notice it realizing that otherwise beauty remains hidden from sight—as well as taking time to ground myself in wisdom, drawing from our own Christian tradition as well as from the wisdom of other traditions.
Strong friendships also serve to strengthen and nourish me through good times and bad. I’m writing this, while on Carol and WG’s porch. My friendship with Carol stretches across the largest gap in my life—she moved around the corner from me just before second grade. The memories are funny and tender to be sure—I wish I had access to some of the old photos of us—and delightful to recall. But for the friendship to continue to flourish and nourish, it is important to have time to connect together where we are today as well. So this time has been especially nourishing and life-giving.
Clearly there are more things that nourish and sustain me, including spending time with my wonderful family and the opportunity to do meaningful work as the rector of St. Simon’s. My list is long, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on it. What we focus on grows, and so being clear about what inspires, encourages and nourishes us is important work. In the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul encourages the community there with these words:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
We cannot give to the world around us what we do not have ourselves. So being sure we are rooted and grounded enables us to be the tree on the pillar of rock for someone around us, even though we may never know it. I wonder what nourishes you and how you stay connected to it? I would love to hear what is on your list, if you have a moment. And may the God of peace be with you.