The Surrender Tree
opens me to what I cannot see . . .
As I write in the dirt that
supports its roots:
I release my logic,
my need to know,
and trust that my small act
of letting go,
will create beauty and life
more wild than my imagination can dream.
I see that I am alone.
My ritual is guaranteed.
Today is another day
to speak my surrender
into the air,
while the tree bears silent witness
and keeps my secrets
I look back at the tree,
then the ground.
I envision the words, like offerings,
stirring in the dirt,
under the small stones and branches
I’ve laid upon them,
actively in dialogue with
I cannot communicate the depth
of what my surrender means,
because even I do not understand it.
But the words I’ve spoken out loud
and set into the dirt
by the base of the tree
© 2011 by Jenna Love
This poem came from a ritual I created at a time in my life where nothing I could "do" was changing anything in the physical world around me. My deep need to make things and situations turn the way I wanted, in the time I wanted, only left me frustrated, disappointed, and even a bit faithless in my spiritual journey. I'm naturally drawn to trees because to me they represent groundedness. Their root systems are complicated, entwined, far-reaching, and adaptable. The trunk and branches grow toward the light and seek higher awareness.
Notice in the picture how this beech tree's bark has been carved into by people who have left an initial or a word, a marker of an emotion, a record in history. Well, I wanted my history to be more private, subtle, just between me and God. I wanted to place my words and symbols in the ground right at the base of the tree, as if they would somehow penetrate the soil and become buried, go underground and emerge again in a new, enlightened form. I was seeking for my grief and frustration and hopes to die and be transformed.
Many times a week I performed this ritual. I also placed special rocks I collected, favosite coral fossils to be exact, on the dirt. I wanted to take the fossils home because the coral had become crystalized and they were really beautiful and rare. But leaving them at the tree was like another offering, to go along with my words and symbols in the dirt, to give away the things I needed to surrender: thought patterns, expectations, desires, fears.
One day, though, I brought a stone with me to the tree, which I had recently bought, called chiastolite. It is a stone noted for its distinctive cross-shaped, black graphite inclusions against a brownish background. Symbolically, I connect with the cross symbol for Christian representations, and carrying it with me was a positive reminder of discovering my life mission, realizing that the path to fulfilling it would not be easy. It would require a sacrifice. But in the sacrifice there is the promise of a kind of death that only leads to transformation and the promise of something better. To me, Jesus and the cross is relevant to me on more than just the level of how He suffered for us. It is also a prophetic announcement to all of mankind that our life is a journey that will require a time of coming to terms with our mission, a wrestling with God and ourself (and even bargaining) to possibly have some other option than what we know is our path. Then there's a coming to terms with whatever lies ahead, not knowing for sure where the journey will lead but having a surrendered faith that gets you on your knees and in the dirt of your life for a while, wondering if you heard the calling correctly because it sure doesn't feel comfortable. Next comes some real pain. The death of the old self, the old thought patterns and expectations and beliefs of how you thought your life would be. All gone. Done. In the dirt ready for transformation.
Then some time has to pass. That time is different for everyone. For me, usually things do not transform overnight, but require months and years to bring certain situations full-circle. God is really not concerned with how long we spend in a death/transformation cycle; He's concerned with the outcome, the change it produces on the other side.
When transformation and restoration occur, there is a great respect for the process that was required to enter this new territory of change and rebirth.
But back to the chiastolite stone I carried with me one day to the tree . . . I really didn't want to leave it there, buried in the dirt, but knew symbolically I needed to. I scooted some dirt around and then suddenly it fell deep into a hole an animal had dug, so deep that I panicked that it was out of my reach. I tried to retrieve it, but it was long gone. Just like everything in my head (my worries, my fears, my longings and expectations) that needed to slip away, the rock with the cross on it went first; it led the way for my personal surrender.
I felt a little shocked that the chiastolite was gone so suddenly and was so out of sight and reach. But it confirmed my need to stop obsessing about what I need to leave behind, to just do it once and carry on. Trust that doing it once with certain faith is better than doing it daily with no faith. So, I let go.
About two months later I was at the tree, snuffeling about the dirt, and as I moved some leaves I saw the chiastolite right there on the surface of the dirt. Just right there in plain sight! Not underground in the pit of darkness. Simply there for me to pick up without having to search for it. It was odd, really, to have so much time and weathering occur over the two months---and the area is on an incline. I never expected to see that rock again. I felt it had been given back to me. It was okay to take it home. Because I didn't look for it and dig it up and chase after it, it rose to the surface in its own time. Right then, I realized the clarity I sought in my life would probably follow this same pattern.
For the first time in a long while, I felt that my acts of surrender at that tree were heard all along. That not one grief cry, faithless moment, plead, petition, or longing had gone out to oblivion. Though nothing had, in fact, turned a corner in my life or had really changed or come full-circle yet, I knew that I was heard and that I was told to keep enduring. The chiastolite cross stone was given back to me as bread for the journey, you could say. An offering to ME this time. A reminder that endurance builds the soul's stamina for the next stage of the journey.
Endurance is a teacher.
Patience and higher understanding are its gifts.
As long as we resist the path we do not want to traverse,
we cannot embrace endurance
as it is meant to work in us
and change us.
May you speak your surrender like a mantra today, then let it go.
May you write words and symbols in the dirt as Jesus did, then let them go.
May you believe in the grace of endurance and the grace of restoration.