this tree

Originally published 6/8/17.

“This tree” first spoke its truth to me in September of 2013.

I noticed it with the help of a friend as we walked along a trail in the sacred lands of the Santa Ana Pueblo. He pointed. And I took the shot.

His words —

It looks like it died and then started growing in a new direction.

Since then I have painted the image of this death and resurrection twice. First in watercolor — then a version with acrylic and oil. 

Each time I painted, I was conscious of the strength of the symbolic elbow in the scene — the point where growth begins again in a new direction. 

This elbow gives the image character. It evokes a universal narrative. And, it invites me to the place where I give my consent to die to new life. Again. And again.

Julie Ann Stevens

I consent to let God do what God will do with my life. And the lives of others.

I consent to the elbow — both in the grand scheme of things — and in my momentary grounding that elbows in and out as breath.

This is a rich and unending metaphor for my spiritual journey, meeting me with just-in-time sacraments as I continue to walk the winding trail.

Today, I clearly see my false self in the first trajectory of the elbow. This is my self of doing more driven by a desire to win the prizes that are valued in our modern culture. It is about an insatiable hunger for rewards in the form of status, praise, credibility, invitations, and “likes” and substituting these currencies for true belonging.

“This tree” grew in that direction, inches or feet each year, shooting forth leaves — and dropping them — from season to season.

And then —

And then.

An awakening.

A subtle loss of energy in that direction. Then, a gentle easing away from the moorings. Then, a quake of sorts. A quake followed by silence. And a season that comes and goes with no visible signs of life —

As I knew it.

Life in the crook of the elbow.

Turning to, consenting to and being moved by God.

Aware of what has been.

Awake to what is becoming.

And present to the crook —

The in between.

Julie Ann Stevens

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