Sunday, March 20, 2011

Appearance and Reality

the other day, as i left on my bike ride, i made it my intention to be mindful of the trees in the park as i rode past them.  the first thing i noticed were the pine trees.  i thought about how beautiful these native pines in the park are and how many of these beautiful trees we've lost from our forests.  over the past hundred years, many of the forests in our part of the country have been clear cut to make way for the planting of a variety of fast-growing pine that is well suited for pulpwood to be used in making paper.  this process has accelerated in the past twenty-five years.  when the diverse forests of native pine, cedars, and hardwoods are cut, a tangled mess is left that is then burned so that these agricultural pines can be planted.  the trees that were removed are not harvested to be put to any good use, and i grieve that so much beautiful and useful wood is lost and that the beauty of the natural forest is sacrificed so that we can have more cardboard for packaging and more facial and toilet tissue.  for this reason, the magnificent pines in our park are especially valuable to me.

they have large trunks, and their needles are long and a deep green.  the bark had an intriguing rough texture.  they are all the more lovely because they are scattered among large oaks, and in the winter, the contrast between the dark green of the pine needs and the bare branches of the oaks is striking. as i rode through the western side of the park, an oak tree in the middle of the park caught my eye.  It appeared that this tree was leaning precariously toward the south, and i made it a point as i rode through the center of the park to look for it.  to my surprise, i couldn't find it.  as i rode on through the eastern side of the park, i looked back to the west, and there the tree was.  when i made my second circuit through the west side of the park, i spotted the tree again, making a mental note of its location near a small service building.  this enabled me to find the tree on my second ride through the center of the park.  what had appeared to be a large tree leaning to the south was instead the large branch of a still larger oak tree.  the south-leaning branch was so huge that, from a distance with the base of the tree obscured, it seemed to be a tree on its own.

this discovery led me to think of how often our perceptions are skewed.  because we can't so the entire picture, reality is often quite different from appearance.  Sometimes, what is real is dependent on our perspective, and we make judgments based on incomplete information.  perhaps, we would be wiser simply to observe without judging and wait until we have more complete knowledge.

my prayer for myself and for you this day is that we live in the moment, mindful that reality is not always what we perceive it to be, and that the transitory nature of life colors our judgment about the reality we believe we are experiencing.

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