Standing out (or is it, “out standing in its field”)

I actually stopped on my bike ride and did a U-turn to get this photo.

In between us we have a rock wall and a horse pasture, but there is is, one lone tree changed so much that it stands out from all the others, ahead of its time…a tree gone autumn.

I keep thinking about this tree, wondering if our souls do that when we learn something or when God’s preparing us for something. I thought about how sometimes it’s not bad to be different, and of course if this tree were a kid on the schoolyard it would be teased and possibly bullied because it’s ahead of its time.

I came across a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, from The Interior Castle, where she’s comparing the spiritual life to the life of a silkworm, and adds, “When it is full-grown, then, as I wrote at the beginning, it starts to spin its silk and to build that house in which it is to die.”

Do our souls “go autumn” before we die? I asked that two years ago, and I still don’t know. You can look at that tree and know what’s about to come, but the tree doesn’t know. If the tree could see itself compared to its neighbors, wouldn’t it be shocked. “What’s wrong with me? Why am I no longer green?”  It might even ask, “Why am I so ugly?” while all the green trees recoil and wonder if it’s catching.

Really, all that’s wrong with this tree is it’s ahead of its time. Maybe it does know what’s to come. Maybe the other trees are the only ones who don’t know.

A friend and I were talking about Jesus as a child, who must have seemed different in some ways, who probably got teased for following the rules and doing his work and obeying his parents. I said to my friend, “How does someone lovingly respond to harassment?” and she said, “He probably prayed for them.”  I said, “But as a child, what did he do then, before he grew up in wisdom?”

She thought for a moment and said, “Maybe he just took it all inside.”

We see that during the scourging and the crowning with thorns, where the soldiers insult him and harass him, the ultimate bullies, and he takes it without replying, prays for them in action, and forgives them. Whether he did that as a child, or whether he learned it through practice — I don’t know.

Maybe maturity in the soul is just as visible as that tree in the field, only we don’t recognize what it means.


  1. Scott

    Well, I hope these trees remember that they’ve done it enough times to say, “Here we go again.”

    If not, then I’m thinking they’re saying to the red tree. “Hey cool colors!. How do I get some of them?” Cause some of those other trees will probably just turn brown.

    Trying to think glass half full today 😉

    1. philangelus

      That’s probably healthier than looking at the red trees and thinking, “Death.”

  2. Scott

    Still waiting for that good photoshoot of the foliage that happens only one weekend a year if it doesn’t rain. 🙂

    1. philangelus

      Good luck getting a sunny day with leaves that look like the upper half of a rainbow! 🙂

  3. Ken Rolph

    I’m always fascinated by people in the northern hemisphere temperate zones making homilies out of climate. It seems to be all based on the idea of 4 equal, different and regular seasons. I’m not in that space, so I have limited experience with autumnal foliage.

    On first sight the tree looked like and Illawarra flame tree, or possibly a coral tree. Coral trees are useless. The wood is spongy and falls apart all the time. You can’t burn it or make anything with it. But if you leave a piece of branch sitting in a damp spot it will sprout a whole new tree. A real pest in rainy areas.

    That’s always the real problem with show don’t tell. What you show me may not be what I see.

    1. philangelus

      There is totally a homily in a useless piece of wood turning into an entire tree full of useless wood if you leave it in a damp spot. That’s a metaphor for sin right there.

      It may not be a northern hemisphere thing as much as a Catholic thing. If God made nature, and God is rational and organized, then we can extrapolate some details about God from nature.

      It’s also a Distracted Daydreamer thing: if humans are a part of nature (we are) then we might be able to extrapolate details about human nature from physical nature.

  4. Ken Rolph

    English literature runs from Chaucer’s April showers to Eliot’s April as cruelest month. Western civilisation is a temperate zone thing and the culture matches the nature. That culture moves around the world and ends up in places where it doesn’t match the nature.

    What do you extrapolate if you realise that your true seasons are an irregular cycle of drought, fire and flood?

    You didn’t identify the kind of tree you were basing your whole musings on. I find that most interesting.

  5. Janet Sunderland

    I wanted to thank you for your post on Query Tracker on why you don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. You have beautifully said what comes up for me each time this project makes the rounds. Congratulations on doing it twice. I simply couldn’t add the added demands on myself so have not. And now I can even put down any lingering guilt that I really didn’t have anyway… as you write above, it’s not bad to be different.

    Regards, J.

  6. Ana

    Maybe the tree is joking to all the other trees “Last one sleeping is a rotten egg!!!” 🙂