This beech tree is older than I am. It has survived storms and drought, summer heat and freezing cold. Every Spring soft new leaves unfurl, an umbrella of gentle green. Of all our British trees, the beech is blessed with beauty through the year. Summer gives dappled green shade, and then as Autumn develops the canopy turns golden, then bronze and rich brown. Winter shows off the graceful elegance of branches, underlaid by a carpet that hushes the footfall of man and beast. And so the seasons turn.
Standing at the base of the trunk, and aiming the lens straight up, produced this image of strength and dainty colour.
To stay strong, the tree sheds its leaves: it lets go of the growth that would endanger survival. Fully leaf-clad, the tree would be far more vulnerable to strong winds or heavy snowfall.
In any event, the tree has a rhythm of growth and rest through the seasons and letting go of the leaves is vital.
To “hold on grimly” is often seen as strength of character – and it can be so.
“Letting go” is sometimes more difficult. To lose something precious is hard; to relinquish it by choice is tougher still.
Memories, pain, insult and injury can scar our spirit as well as our bodies and mind.
Jesus spoke about forgiving and being forgiven. He taught about loving enemies, not just those who love us. He gave up his own human body in order to redeem those who opposed God’s kingdom. “Greater love has no-one than this, that he gives up his life for a friend” – yet Jesus gave his life for his enemies.
“What does it profit a person if you gain the whole world… but lose your soul?”
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month… One hundred years ago the “war to end all wars” ended as the guns fell silent and the bells began to ring in hope and joy.
Remembrance Day is so important. To commemorate courage, sacrifice, and honour those who died or lost loved ones: to learn the lesson of history so we do not fall into the horror of war again. Love, dignity, heroism should never be forgotten – yet we still have war and terrorist attacks, and we have injustice, poverty and hunger in the world.
Are we strong enough to let go of selfishness, to resist the exploitation of the poor & weak, and to let go of the nationalistic divisions that mean strong/wealthy nations oppress the weak? Extreme politics of “Right” of “Left” leads to trouble. Racist pride denies dignity and equality – and erodes the soul of the hater. Will we “let go” so all can be valued and live in freedom?
To offer mercy is the fruit of true strength: to love with compassion and justice.
One day, says the prophet, “Swords will be beaten to make ploughs.” Until then we must remember in gratitude the many who gave us a gift of their present: and we honour them most truly when we become peacemakers and seek righteousness.