Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Finding Light

At the bottom of our little street there is a small wooded area known to us as The Magical Forest--namely because, well, it is magical. Prickers are really angry dragons whose chocolate has been stolen by desperate Chocolate Bandits (who only steal chocolate because they have never known the sublime sensation of receiving chocolate as a gift). A large broken tree that hangs down a few feet above the ground is actually a massive trampoline which can catapult a small boy as far as, say, the moon. And a low-looping branch is (of course) a Smoothie Rest Stop on the treacherous journey to the heart of the Magical Forest.

And all this is quite risky and marvelous and the Magical Forest grows and changes with each visit to its wonders. But a few weeks ago--down at the very edge and end of the Magical Forest--Tyler and I noticed a low branch from a tree which someone had pushed into the ground. It was a couple of inches in diameter, and whoever did the deed must have really worked at it.

And succeeded. The branch had been pushed directly into the ground, then covered with a fairly large rock, and then a long, heavy board had been laid across the branch and nailed to it and the base of other small trees nearby. In short: someone had ensured that this branch would grow straight into the ground. (Why someone did this escapes me.)

Tyler and I looked at the strange little experiment and we both wondered aloud what had happened to that branch.

"Daddy! Maybe the Dragons use it as their slide that goes straight into the ground and way way way way WAY to the middle of the earth!"

Tyler's hypothesis was a very good one. I nodded my agreement of this possibility. But then something magical happened in the Magical Forest. Something really magical. Super-duper MAGICAL.

Tyler stepped onto the branch that has been forcefully burrowed into the ground. When he did so, a tiny little thing with green buds on it two feet away moved. Tyler climbed down, and I asked him to do it again. And again: the tiny little thing two feet away moved.

We proceeded to do our own experiment--moving the branch in the ground as much as we possibly could, and each time, the little plant moved. Then, we went over the the little plant and pulled and prodded it and--Holy Crap!--the branch moved.

Deductive reasoning and a little bit of dirty fingernail digging unearthed the truth for us: that branch had said, essentially, I don't think so. That branch had remained underground for two long, hard, deep feet and then it had managed to break the soil and find the light.

Tyler and I discussed how the branch might have said exactly those words: I don't think so.

As a brave, bold knight would say them? I DON'T THINK SO.

As a climber of Mt. Everest must utter them, fighting back defeat and despair? I...don't...THINK...SO!

As an astronaut who has just glimpsed the moon through her tiny little rocket window? I don't THINK SO!

However the branch said these words to whoever forced it into the darkness of the ground, to the heavy rock that lay atop it, and to the board nailed in its path to light--the words came. And--man!--to have heard them.

Now, on each journey to the end and edge of the Magical Forest we make sure to spend a few moments with this most Magical of Branches. We shake, tenderly, both the branch and the plant and watch the reverberations travel along the two feet of hidden, dark growth. We point to the green buds that get bigger by the day, and we wonder at how marvelous the leaves will look when Spring finally announces that it's time.

And I know that many of us, pushed into the dirt by the circumstances of life, bearing heavy weights, often think that the darkness we might find ourselves in is it. That our chances at budding may be irrevocably lost or bound with the heaviness and pressure of nails.

There is a beautiful moment towards the end of George Eliot's Middlemarch when two characters--Dorothea and Rosamond--are meeting and the scene is set for revenge, hatred, bitterness, and despair to reign. Both parties have been deeply hurt and profoundly misunderstood. But then Dorothea decides on a different route: instead of burrowing further into the darkness she bulldozes the walls that stand between her and Rosamond. She shares with bold honesty and remarkable forgiveness all that is on her heart. And in the face of such courage, Rosamond, too, cannot maintain the grasp on her own bitterness and spite. It's at this poignant moment that Eliot writes, simply, "Pride was broken between them."

Pride was broken between them.

In the place of a bitter reluctance to renewal and hope, these two characters tear down the walls that divide them and they break out into open light. Instead of pride, they choose confidence. Instead of a haughty sense of comparison and competition, they choose cooperation and boldness moving forward.

Last night, in the Public Speaking class, each of 12 students shared the start to a speech called One True Thing. We talked about the need to break past the walls all around us--and to refuse and refute the lies of Shame, Fear, Despair, and Bitter Criticism by using bold, clear, and passionate voices to say what we believe.

And as I watched these 12 people of all different ages share their bold truths, I couldn't help but allow my eyes to do what they wanted to do: yup--tear up. I felt an incredible sense of gratitude for just being able to hear these voices. For watching these voices bud with the beautiful green of courage and hope and--in clear language--the I don't think so that the Magical Branch uttered.

Whatever darkness and dirt may be piled on top of you right now, may you hold to the hope that even after two feet of despair, the light may still be found. Reaching upwards, the opportunity to break ground and bud is there, waiting. And there are innumerable people waiting to see what kind of leaves you'll grow, and how--exactly--your voice will sound when you utter those beautiful, bold words, I don't think so.