09 October 2013

The Tree of Joy

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For some reason, The Tree of Joy came to my mind this past weekend. I started thinking we all need a Tree of Joy in our lives. Let me tell you a little about this lovely, magical place. While I don't quite remember all the details of how it got its name, its impact clearly still has an effect years later.

After graduating from junior college, a group of friends and I all transferred the very next week to summer school at a nearby university. We graduated, moved and started spring semester within days. In the midst of all the upheavals of transitioning to new apartments, desperately seeking jobs and signing up for hard-to-get classes we found a tree, right near the main quad of campus on a nice grassy patch that became a bit of a secret hideaway from the bigness of our new surroundings and all the problems of the world.

I can't even remember what kind of tree it was but it had low hanging branches which created a bit of psuedo privacy on the sprawling, busy campus right outside the main entrance to the student union building and bookstore. The grass was thick and soft and made for a perfect place to flop after a particularly unpleasant class or calm nerves and cram before a test. It was a place to be seen and a place to hide out. Little by little a small group of friends began to make this our on campus gathering spot. Heavy backpacks were strewn about and jackets were used for pillows. Naps were taken there, problems were shared. When friends walked by they would stop and sit a spell under the Tree of Joy with us. Many. many people overtime has occasion to meet the little world under the Tree of Joy. Some became regulars, some used it as a general meeting spot, others just enjoyed one lovely day there meeting new friends.

One day I was under The Tree of Joy and two friends joined me. One was a friend from junior college the other the brother of a friend from high school. From that meeting they later fell in love and got married and have three wonderful kids now. The Tree of Joy definitely had magical powers to wrap its arms around people and help people wrap their arms around other people.

This past weekend as I was thinking about this lovely spot so many years ago now, I remembered that I think some time ago the university chopped down our little tree and ripped out the grass. I think it's a big concrete slab now. I kind of feel like our world has changed in the same way the surroundings of our old tree have changed. We've replaced so much of gathering and time spent relaxing and enjoying time with other people for concrete (phones, computers, desks, cubicles, text messages, cars, etc.) The softness of the grass of life is gone, the safety of the arcing limbs stripped away.

When I think back on The Tree of Joy it inspires me to return to simpler things. There's nothing more simple in life than sitting in the grass, under a tree, enjoying the dappled sunlight on your face, staring up at the sky and clouds and just breathing. Some days it's laughing and talking with friends. We need more Trees of Joy, more time doing nothing much of importance that ends up being really important to our mental health, our relationships, our gratitude for nature and for our beautiful world. Simple things are where life's greatest joys are found. We all need our Tree of Joy or perhaps our Couch of Joy, or Patio Rocking Chair of Joy somewhere in our lives.

This all inspires me to make sure my family has its own Tree or Trees of Joy, spots to gather, feel safe, laugh and rest. It's fun to think about creating Trees of Joy for friends and extended family too. That inspires me to think about how I gather and host in a more inspiring way. It's not just about the food and the color of the napkins. Creating a truly organic Tree of Joy environment is something I want to strive for.

I hope when people come to my home they feel the branches of love protecting and wrapping around them. I hope they feel that the sun's glare is a bit shaded from their faces, that they are safe to let loose and laugh or cry. I hope that when they leave they feel refreshed, encouraged and strengthened.

Such was the power of The Tree of Joy so many year ago and the fondness of those memories encourages me to not forget the feeling one has under a Tree of Joy. May we all find many more Trees of Joy in our lives.

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