Even the changing seasons can be unexpected and painful, shifting without our consent. But the changing seasons that lead us to a steadfast God change something in us. They grow us. … True goodness is found in surrender to God in any season, as He is the only one who can truly make anything grow. ~ Nicole Zasowski, From Lost to Found
I was out of town when the late-May blizzard hit. I came home to a cracked birdbath, a downed clothesline, leaves everywhere, and a beyond-battered maple.
The tree that had grown for decades to eventually shade the entire south side of the house was missing huge chunks of its lush, globular canopy. Massive limbs had broken under the weight of snow and ice on almost-summer-sized leaves; that the branches hadn’t fallen on the house or split the trunk base was grace alone.
That’s probably why I didn’t cry: I was just relieved that the damage wasn’t worse. The tree was so tall, I wouldn’t have been able to shake off the snow even if I’d been home. C’est ce que c’est, non?
Over the summer, I tried not to think about the missing spots of shade or the tree’s now-lopsided silhouette. I avoided angles that highlighted the ugly, gaping center — a sad void that would take decades more to fill back in. Instead, I focused on how much of the tree remained, on the truth that new leaves and water sprouts hinted at a long, full life to come.
The next year, I hung the hummingbird feeder in its usual spot under the maple. I was getting used to the tree’s new shape, its negative spaces — but I was always combing bark and bare spots, anxious for signs of growth.
Until the hummingbirds came.
They didn’t just drink and flit away as in years past. They stayed. They fed, then lighted on small now-dead branches. They settled in to preen, to rest — always keeping a watchful eye through sparse leaves. Leaves that had once been too thick for their peace of mind.
The storm that tore through a beautiful, healthy, huge tree had left behind not unsightly devastation but the perfect nook for hummingbirds: A place of shade and sun and long views and twigs rightsized for minuscule feet.
Pain can strike with sweeping, indiscriminate hacks or targeted chiseling. But whatever in life might seem an incalculable loss, an irreparable damage, we’re wise to remember that our scars can be sources of refuge and rest for someone else.
May we not be too quick to wish things back to what they were. Rather, may we pray for eyes to see how our wounds soften us, strengthen us, broaden our views, reinforce our eternal hope, and create safe space for other souls.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.