As I thought of each plant while making the mandala above, (neither as pretty or even symmetrical as I’d hoped for Christmas Eve!) I pondered how in Nature gentleness, softness or diminutive size are traits not exclusive of strength and purpose. A lesson from Nature.
Dusty Miller’s soft fuzzy leaves hardily survive in the garden next to plants blackened by below freezing temperatures. Flexible Cedar trees sway in the wind, thin tops vulnerable to breaking out in strong storms, yet baskets woven of cedar bark will carry stones and some have survived hundreds of years. Star Anise’s fruit, fleshy and soft, when dried hardens into pods hard as the shells of nuts, protecting tiny seeds. Delicate white blossoms of the spider plant are fragile, yet spider plant is a powerful detoxifier of polluted air. The Lilliputian ‘cones’, barely noticed on the forest floor, fall from Red Alder, a tree straight and tall whose wood, strong enough for building houses and making furniture, makes for hot fires. (My analogies aren’t a perfect fit, but you get the idea! And there are many more examples!)
The celebration of Christmas focuses on the birth of a tiny babe over 2000 years ago who grew up, according the gospels written after his death, to teach of love and forgiveness, to teach that in the eyes of God everyone was equal and anyone, regardless of social status, whether they were criminals or ‘sinners’, men or women, could find the “kingdom of God within“. The stories and events of his life will forever be discussed and debated, but it is known that he lived at a very tumultuous time in history and was likely seen as a revolutionary leader with a growing following who, among other acts of defiance, confronted greedy money changers and disagreed with the ‘temple tax’ every man had to pay. An advocate of the poor and working class at a time of tyrant leaders, Jesus represented a caring, protecting presence and gave hope to those who followed him, but to those in power he was a rebellious troublemaker. He died young, a victim of political conspiracy because he was ‘anti-establishment’ and his ability to attracted great crowds of people was a threat to religious and political leaders. He was, from what was written after his death by those closest to him, a compassionate person, kind to all, who could be strong as steel and hot as fire when he needed to be, especially in the face of what he saw as injustice.
Whether you are celebrating the birth of Jesus this weekend, or the the miracle of light as Hanukkah begins, I hope you have an opportunity to spend time in Nature on these wintry days and see what she has to teach you. In the winter Nature can be peaceful and calm, for it is a time of rest before the energy burst needed for spring. But she also has a powerful stormy side as witnessed in winter storms. She can teach us the same lessons that Jesus and other great religious leaders have taught – be gentle when gentleness is needed, and strong when strength is needed. Love all, protect those in need, and stand up to those who are unjust and driven by greed for power and money.
Not much has changed in 2,000 years has it?
Peace and Happy Holy-days!