The Wisdom Tree

                                             Wisdom Tree

I first noticed the tree almost a year ago in the meadow near the pond. It was hard to miss, a singular graceful presence amidst native huckleberry, scrub oaks, and spring wildflowers. Eight low-lying and wind-twisted limbs were supported by a sturdy trunk planted firmly in the middle of the small field. As with every living thing, it had its own unique energy about it, one that drew and held my attention.  When a number of my meditation friends here on the island later mentioned a local “wisdom tree” near my home, I realized that this must be that tree. I was more curious. What did they mean by “Wisdom tree”?"eye" of Wisdom

Just before my next visit to the island, one of those friends had dreamed that there was a message from the tree for me and others. Always intrigued by the possibility of a mystical adventure I wanted to find out more. But somehow, on that trip to the island, time conspired to keep me from the visit.  And yet, I had the sense that if I was to receive a message, it would somehow get to me one way or another. The last morning, just before I was to fly out, I had to choose between going to see the tree and making an unplanned trip to the post office to mail a jacket one of my guests had left the day before. I went to the Chilmark post office, a small, homey gray shingled building where neighbors stop to chat while sorting their mail. I was at the counter pondering which stamp to buy – there were only two choices- A “love” stamp and a holiday stamp. The postal clerk, whom I did not know offered, “If you have to choose, love is always the right choice.” I looked at her for moment and then realized that this was the message, the teaching, I was supposed to hear. If it wasn’t, I didn’t think I would get a better one from a tree. I smiled. The trip to see the “wisdom tree” would wait for another time.

So I returned two months later to the island and found my way through the snow-covered roads to the tree. I had walked down the last steep stretch above the frozen pond among thick patches of ice that crunched underfoot, my eyes glued to the sometimes treacherous ruts.  Suddenly I stopped, almost as if  someone had reached out and grabbed my arm. Looking to my left I laughed aloud when I saw that the tree was right there and I had almost walked past it. “Okay, okay I’m coming,” I said, as I turned and headed across the field.Heart of Wisdom

I climbed into the middle of the spreading arms that seemed to invite me in. I closed my eyes and sat a long while until the chill of the winter air called me back to my surroundings.  These words had come to me:  “Wisdom and Love are the same. One cannot have wisdom without love. Love informs and feeds our wisdom and knowing. You will be wise to choose love.” It was a reiteration and expansion of the message I had received in the post office.

As I walked home, I was reminded of the well known New Testament verse “And though I have the gift of prophecies, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.” (1st Corinthians, Chapter 13)

Though I had heard this many times, I had a new understanding of its meaning. Knowledge matters only if we are at the same time acknowledging and opening our hearts to love. How easy to forget that. I have forgotten that many times as I voraciously sought information, facts, and truth, always seeking a deeper understanding, trying to be “right” to bolster the underpinnings of what I already believed. I realize now that those things are only important in the service of love –to feeling it, showing it, honoring it. Love is the Tao, the way, the life force. I will forget this, no doubt, many more times.  I pray a moment of grace, a beautiful tree or a post office clerk will remind me. Wisdom Tree

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