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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

1055: The mountains burst into song before you and all the trees of the field will clap their hands!

Day 1055: Saturday, February 4, 2023

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

The mountains and hills

Will burst into song before you,

And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Sent by JoAnn who writes:

This is a reflection from Mercy Center in Burlingame California. It's known as the Taize of the West. The Mercy Sisters are offering activities now in person after Covid.

This is the home of Sister Suzanne Toolan of “I Am The Bread of Life” etc.

The sisters and so many others are suffering such grief for the trees felled during the past storms. Indeed they have been walking each other home, too.

Blessings and love, JoAnn

Here's the reflection:

The murmuring of trees has lured seekers for ages. Their grand arms stretched to the heavens and their root systems elegantly construyendo una constelación de la tierra.

With enduring nomenclatures such as “tree of life”, “tree of wisdom”, “tree of knowledge”. Their sacredness gets right down to vitality, and perhaps why they mirror human lungs, they are the breath of life. Without their oxygen production we as human species would cease to exist. It is no wonder then that the Mercy Center family has felt such union with the Oaks that dwell in our midst. From the early tribes of the Ramaytush Ohlone who crushed their acorns for food, dyes, and medicinal balm to the Sisters of Mercy who crawled into their arms for prayer, these vast Quercs (Quercus genus name) have sustained many.

In her 40s, Sister Charlene Dazols, became very ill. After gaining some of her strength, she would walk the distance to a Norfolk pine near the front entrance. She would carry with her a blanket and nestle up to the tree trunk. She described the contours of the tree trunk perfectly against her back. Leaning into the tree she could feel the coolness and shade on her feverish body. She could sense the energy of the tree and the space became a haven during her illness. Over the decades the tree has remained a constant companion for Sister Charlene and a practice of gratitude each morning when she opens her blinds. We live in relationship with all.

While the Bay Area and other regions of California endured the January atmospheric river and “bomb cyclone”, the ground became so saturated that many of these giants uprooted themselves. We alone at Mercy Center lost many timber friends and thousands more fell across the state. A reality of climate chaos.

Kohl Mansion and carriage house 1920s.

Clean-up continues as arborists help inspect and fell trees that pose a threat to the safety of others. The grief of this loss is real and as a society that prides itself on tidiness and manicured landscaping, saying goodbye to a tree may not be the first intention for its undertaker.

When Sister Judy Carle heard that the large Oak between the labyrinth and the Montessori playground was going to be cut down, she went early through the rain to say goodbye.

“I gazed and prayed for some moments and thanked the tree for its strong presence with us all these years.”

This image seems like a far reach from Isaiah’s song;

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

The mountains and hills

Will burst into song before you,

And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

This is the song sisters and friends gathered to sing at the completion of Marian Oaks’ chapel - designed to honor the trees on the property - played by Sister Suzanne Toolan. Known as the “Book of Comfort”, Isaiah 55 addresses the Babylonian exiles returning to Jerusalem with language of restoration and emancipation.

“You will go out in joy and be led in peace”. It is a celebratory parade. Their journey cheered by all of creation, “and the mountains and hills burst into song and trees clap their hands.” This is a time of recovery; a time of acknowledging the steadfast accompaniment of nature to those who have walked this land and a time to let go bidding peace to the process of restoration.

We invite you to join us in cosmic inhalation giving thanks for the gift of trees and their sacred bond with the Creator and our being. And exhaling peace and healing to the ways we have harmed our planet and those who have unjustly been removed from their sources of life. May we work in harmony to bring about restoration and wholeness for all.

“The Trees of The Fields Will Clap Their Hands” – Isaiah 55 by Amy Westphal, RSM

Additional thoughts on the trees from the Sisters:

During the “sheltering in time” I have daily walked the grounds of Mercy – Mercy Center, Mercy High School, Mercy Convent. This has been home to me for 60 years and known to me for 64, when I started as a Freshman at the high school. Over the years I have awakened to the mysteries of these “oak clad acres.” Mercy, like the thousands of trees growing here, offers shade and comfort. Sitting under, on or near one of these trees I have found support, been listened to, and accepted, just as I am in that moment.

In watching the new life bloom each year in bright green bristles and in the fall see the decay in brown, dry limbs I am reminded of our lives and the normal cycle of living and dying. It was under these trees that one day I realized I was talking to it and sharing who I am. I knew I was talking to God, but God was the tree. That startled me at first, wondering if I’d “lost it”. But with reflection I knew that God is there in nature, calling to me, listening to me, being with me –just as I am. Trees bring me to God, a God who loves and protects me. A God of Mercy who is reaching out to shelter, shade, support and speak to me. – Bernadette Hart, RSM

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