The Tree of Life
The Book of Proverbs is a strange collection of sayings that range from the sublime to the – well, to our ears these days, at least – ridiculous. Attributed to Solomon but collected over a period of centuries, the sayings fall into two genres: instructions regarding wisdom from a parent to a child (about a third of the book), and pithy couplets that give the book its name (the other two thirds). Parishioner Emilie Oyen continues her summer reading and commentary with a wondrous fantasia of a response to this fascinating collection. - The Rev. Craig Townsend, Vicar
The Tree of Life
(A Mother’s Exhortation?)
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
and the man who gets understanding,
for the gain from it is better than gain from silver
and its profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy.
When I was a child, birch trees materialized out of the late-winter fog like apparitions below the windows. We paid them little mind. Spring came, then summer. The trees and flowers bloomed. We swam in swimming pools behind trimmed hedges, and stone pools filled with ocean water, and rock pools blown out of the cliffs on the Atlantic side of the peninsula. We hit balls on the grass courts; and later as adolescents watched polo at Myopia on Sunday afternoons. Little fleets of dhows trembled in the morning breeze in the harbor’s bay. Crabs scurried under private docks. In the winters, we skied in the mountains and skated on the frozen pond below the castle. We were taught many lessons---blue ribbons, trophies, ceremonies and recitals. I sat indifferently through the best schools. I didn’t study Chinese like the children do now, or play chess or do Tai Chi, but there was French, and etudes and concertos. Grandfather clocks chimed in the pristine hallways of my friends’ homes. The sea waves were pure and incessant against the beaches below.
Hear, O Daughter, a mother's instruction: ice storms in college broke down the gentle birch trees and around the same time, the polo players fled on DUI charges. By the turn of the century, the neighbors were divorced and moved apart, leaving the swimming pools stagnant and green. The castle was always impractically cold, impossible to heat even as the winters grew mild. It was demolished on a Tuesday. Time passed. People were born, and dying. The autumn rains grew in their ferocity. The tides grew less pure, and within 40 years the rock pools were submerged under the New Coast. When the tennis tournaments, once so important to the integrity of society, were cancelled due to the Great Panic of 2030, the grass courts went wild with lupine, mating birds and fox dens. With the northern rebel fires, winter sports were soon forgotten. They say refugees are bivouacked on the beaches now, their white tarps almost beautiful quivering in the murky breeze. I never did learn chess.
Hear, my daughter, and accept my words: nothing is certain and nothing remains. But there is one secret, there is a tree of life that can not be destroyed. It will not fade, it will not wither, it will not grow old. And that is God. I’m your mother, just human--- I’m not wise. I can’t promise you happiness or eternity. All I can do is try to preserve the light that God gave you, and honor the thing within you that can not be denied. That is love. That is my wisdom. It’s nothing I learned. And this is my wisdom: the Lord will guide you through life when you let Him. He is your blue ribbons and trophies and ceremonies and recitals. He is your peaceful paths and pleasant ways to wisdom. The rest is entertainment.
- Emilie Oyen
(artwork by Emilie as well)