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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

506 I suspect there is a tree offering shade someplace near you!

Day 506: Wednesday August 4th, 2021

I suspect there is a tree offering shade someplace near you!


Dear friends,

Looking out my window, I became aware of the rows of olive trees and I slowly went down the hill, with olive trees on either side of me. Like so many others who visit us, I found that these trees brought me peace. Perhaps I have discovered a new approach to meditation! At least “new” for me.

Where did olive trees come from? How did they get their reputation for encouraging tranquility? There are many explanations. These trees were probably native to Asia Minor and spread from Persia, Syria, and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean area about 6000 years ago.

Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs from 2000 BCE. If your taste runs to Greek mythology, there is a legend that the goddess Athena shoved her spear into the ground where the Acropolis now stands. An olive tree grew from the spear symbolizing the end of a war.

The Hebrew Bible teaches us that a dove returned to Noah's Ark with an olive branch (Gen 8:11.) East of the old city of Jerusalem lies the Mount of Olives, long revered as a place of prayer. This is where King David went to escape the rage of his son Absalom (1 Samuel 15:30.) It is also the place where Jesus went on several occasions during the week before the Romans executed him (Mark 13:32.)

At Starcross, we have 1800 olive trees. They are much the same, and at the same time, no two are alike. The same can be said of the many people who have spent time here, myself included. Recently, I came upon a young woman dancing among the olive trees. She said to me,

“I have never done anything like that.

Something just came over me!” I knew what she meant.

The grove of olive trees nearest to me is the Francis Field appropriately named after St. Francis of Assisi (1181 - 1226), a man who urged peace among all beings. I once visited an olive grove said to have been planted by Francis. It looked very much like our groves, except that the trees were much larger.

The blossoms are long gone and the small green olives are beginning to swell. I moved slowly because each tree seemed to be a cosmos of its own. There was a natural common intelligence which could probably be traced back at least 6000 years. Each tree had it’s own individuality, but here was no clash between the trees, just a harmony.

No one was dancing on this occasion, but I did find an extremely interesting family of wild turkeys. There were two adults and seven young ones who looked upon me as just another new thing they were encountering. The adults were obviously training the youngsters to feed themselves. It was sort of a look, scratch, eat, process. Some of the juveniles seemed to catch on quickly. Others were a bit slow to understand. The adults moved toward those who didn't quite get it and trained them by example.

In the next few days, we will be happily overrun by young people who grew up here at Starcross, including two grandchildren of mine. The young people grew up very well and became decent, caring individuals. Nonetheless, I couldn't help asking myself if I might have done a better job setting an example when they were very young. Perhaps I could have learned something from these two adult turkeys!

Coming to the end of the row, I rested in the shade of an olive tree and looked out on the county road. Cars were going by, some too fast, others with agitated drivers shouting into their mobile phones. Two cars were going slowly. One was driven by a woman in tears, the other by a teenager with a very anxious expression. I realized that I was looking out at what some people call “The Real World.” I found myself wishing I could have invited them all into the shade of the olive tree.

A neighbor peddled by on his bicycle, looked up at me and waved. Next came a rusty pickup driven by an old-timer who always seemed as pondering the problems of the world — both ancient and contemporary. I took this as my cue to move on out of the shade and back to the house where I live and work — but first a prayer for all those I know, and all others as well.

Going back up the hill, I drove by the pumpkin patch where everything was lush and gave promise of providing pumpkins for the children of this neighborhood. I moved slowly, seeing the tops of the corn growing in the garden. Along the gravel driveway to the main house on my left were stately Italian cypress trees which had been planted by my son David. On my right was the wild and free pine forest, which was the choice of my daughter Holly. They each now have children of their own who will be exploring both environments soon.

There are birds flying everywhere. I wonder if I would have taken the time to notice them if I hadn't spent some time in the shade of an olive tree. Oh, and out of the pine forest comes the family of wild turkeys completing their field trip, before the heat of the day sends them to rest in the shade of a tree.

I suspect there is a tree offering shade someplace near you!

- Brother Toby

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