Lessons from the trees and the gods: accepting limitations and knowing when to commit

The canopy of a honey locust, in partial view as seen from below: innumerable small leaflets form the background, while two sun-dappled limbs arc through the foreground.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where I choose to put my time and energy. I have many interests, many passions, and many responsibilities; in a perfect world, many of these pressures would align with each other so that, magically, I could do everything and still have time to sleep. Alas, I live in the real world, where we don’t have Time Turners, or magical spells that do the dishes for us, so some things have to fall by the wayside. I struggle with that necessity, because my impulse is always to say ‘yes’ to opportunities, and to mourn them when I have to decline. Helpfully, the past few days have been full of gentle guidance and correction.

While running to the library on Thursday, I realized that, in the midst of international travel and seemingly endless rain before that, it had been easily two months since I visited my Grandparent Locust. When last I visited hir, it was late spring and hir leaves had barely begun to fill in, but surely all our June and July rain had brought a lush green canopy to grace hir branches. I was excited to visit, and saw as I stopped my car that I was right: hir branches were beautifully draped in delicate leaflets. As I approached, however, I saw something amiss: just above the main fork of the trunk was a bright wooden circle where a graceful limb had been.

The cut was obviously fresh; sawdust still lay on the ground and in the moss and lichen of hir western face. I’m sure the cut was a repair; a very large windstorm came through earlier in the week, and no doubt the limb had been broken. And the homeowner who trimmed the limb had done so carefully, minimizing damage to the rest of the tree and flushing the cut to the bole. Still, I was saddened to see this special tree so wounded. As I stood with my hand resting on hir bark, though, listening to the wind hissing in hir branches and the insects chirring in hir canopy, I realized that the very place my hand rested was itself, of course, an old cut. Over the years the bark had grown over it, leaving a round, inviting surface for my hand to rest on.

And as I looked around I realized that my handrest was far from unique. Over hir life, many hands had trimmed and pruned this locust, keeping hir light and strong. I had never noticed because s/he had incorporated the changes completely, enfolding the cuts in scar tissue that, rather than detracting, made hir form engaging and unique. This new cut, which seems so raw and out of place, was only the most recent of many prunings that formed the core of hir form. And the soft murmur beneath the bark seemed to confirm my thoughts: for a tree, a limb is only temporary, and a cut will close in time, bringing beauty out of trauma.

The most prominent scar on the tree I call Grandparent Locust, in closeup. Many concentric ripples of bark, puckering toward the center. The rest of the trunk recedes toward the backgrounds, and a suburban streetscape is visible behind.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to attend the main rite of the Summerland Gathering of ADF druids, only an hour or so away from my hometown. From a strictly academic standpoint it was a good experience for me, since every other ADF ritual I’ve attended has been with Three Cranes Grove, and there were subtle differences in practice that were enlightening. But the rite was meaningful in ways particular to the occasion, as well. In addition to the core liturgical work of honoring the Kindreds and reinforcing the community of Ár nDraíocht Féin, three new priests were ordained (including my friend Jan Avende), and one priest was elevated to senior status. Each of those to be ordained came forward to the fire and made offerings to their allies, those gods and spirits who have sustained them on their journeys. Their words were inspiring, and the emotions on their faces were telling: this was a difficult road, but they had undertaken it willingly, and had been supported by both their fellow members in ADF and by the gods we honor. Their ordinations and Rev. Temple’s elevation, along with the experience of seeing members from all over the eastern United States join together in ritual, affirmed to me that, while ADF may be a relatively new and small religion, it is far from a ragtag band of seekers. It is a church, and it is strong.

When I first started attending High Days with Three Cranes Grove, I explicitly told myself that this was a trial period of sorts: I wasn’t sure that ADF was the right group for me, or that I was on the right path for myself. I tend to be very hesitant about committing myself to group memberships, and want to have a feeling of certainty. After two years of ‘trying it out,’ during which I have identified ever more with 3CG and with ADF as a whole, I can’t be in a trial period any longer; it’s time to make a decision. And yet, feeling as pressured for time and energy as I do, I was still feeling trepidatious about making the commitment. So during Saturday’s rite, when the folk came to the fire to give offerings, I prayed that the gods, through the seer’s omens, help me know my path. My prayers arose in a burst of flame as oil met glowing coal — it was a good fire.

When the seer pulled the omens, the gifts that the Kindreds would return to us through the waters, I waited for the final omen, from the Shining Ones. It was an unusual one: “Graceful Surrender.” And as the newly-ordained priests moved around the circle, aspersing us with the consecrated waters, I did just that: I surrendered my anxieties and decided. As of a few keystrokes and mouseclicks today, I’m officially a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin. May the Kindreds all bless and sustain me, and may I serve them and my community. Be it so.

The members of Three Cranes Grove stand with the newly ordained Rev. Jan Avende, celebrating with humor. (I snuck into the back.) Photo originally posted to ADF Facebook page.
Members of Three Cranes Grove stand with the newly ordained Rev. Jan Avende, celebrating with humor. (Photo originally posted to ADF Facebook page.)

One thought on “Lessons from the trees and the gods: accepting limitations and knowing when to commit

  1. Congratulations Mike! May you continue on your path with more blessings and joy than you heart and soul can hold. May you be comforted in your choice and sustained by your official acceptance of a community and the Kindreds.


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