Today I met a man who is a true elder. Don Grayston is someone who speaks wisdom to those who are younger and hands them the truth and the baton lightly. He is a wise and gentle man who founded Jubilee Associates, the Canadian organization of spiritual directors I am working with. I wished I could have sat and listened to him all day to gain from his experience and hear his advice for growth but I could not. He had to leave out gathering. He is frail and used all his energy so share with us what he did. It was well thought out and precise. We were given a mandate for the future, a legacy to carry forward.
Much of the work around spiritual direction is “contemplative” in nature. Never given to much naval gazing I find this difficult but I’m adjusting to the peculiar exercises of holding rocks and listening to spirit. When I remember it is not about looking inward but rather about seeking the divine it is much easier.
After listening to Don Grayson in the morning the early afternoon was spent in the glorious outdoors at Xenia Island Retreat on Bowen Island. While a typhoon is pounding Canada’s west coast the little bit of paradise where we are staying is somewhat sheltered. Someone found me a rain cape and off we went to the woods where we were introduced to a 1000-year-old tree which the locals call Opa. This ancient tree is the only one which survived the clear cutting of the island in the 1800’s and how it was saved is unknown but it stands tall and strong. It took nine of us joining hands around its base to circle it.
Some together in the nearby woodland chapel then let to contemplative work. We were to go out and listen to the teachers of the land, the rocks and trees. We were to listen to their song or their voice and hear what the wisdom of the earth was speaking to our hearts.
As I walked into the woods I thought of the great but meek man I had met in the morning and the legacy he is turning over to this apprentices. This was the talk of the forest.
A metaphor for the inheritance of great meekness
This was the talk of the forest.
The great Opa tree stood silently among his children
and the children of his friends long gone.
The trees began to whisper
A sapling dared aspire to the height and breadth of the great tree
and it’s bigger brothers jeered at it behind their hands of green.
A maple sighed because it knew it could never aspire to such grandeur
but the aspen whispered to it that it too has a great call.
I leaned on a tree along the stream and it stood proudly.
It told me it will stand tall for many years and many people will lean on it.
Another closer to the stream swayed slightly when I pushed on it to hold me
It scolded me saying, “Do you need a bridge to cross such a small stream?
If you do not please do not lean on my because I plan to stand here for a long time.”
And the whispers continued about who would be great and who would be best
and the big Opa stood silently knowing time would sort their coming and going,
their rising and falling,
that wisdom and chance would each have a hand in their destiny
and he dreamed the forest would continue to hold such hope.