Thursday, September 1, 2022

Spiritual Thursday: On Community

Hello, all! I am hosting Spiritual Thursday this month. I appreciate Denise Krebs for connecting me with this thoughtful writing circle and I hope you enjoy my post - and that you leave a comment with a link to your blog post below. Thank you!

“Community is society with a human face,

the place where we know we are not alone.” 

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

As a preschool teacher, the goal of building community in my classroom was near and dear to my heart every September. I was constantly thinking, how might I help these young children see themselves as part of the larger group, a community? How might I encourage them to share their individual voices and stories, and, also, to listen and welcome those of others? How might I help them see that this is our classroom, and that we work together to create this loving and beautiful shared space? 

I suppose this is why I chose the word “community” as a theme for September’s Spiritual Journey. Of course, many months have passed since I signed up to host and my thoughts about community today have led me far from the classroom…let me take you there….

On our summer trip out west, Tony and I were driving along this gorgeous shaded road in Oregon. All these enormous tall Douglas fir evergreens dwarfed the road, providing this dark, magical surround with just a sliver of blue sky breaking through. We were all smiles when we stopped at an overlook of the Rogue River Gorge, and this - like so many other places we visited this summer - took our breath away with its beauty. It was very early in the morning and we were the only people there; I have no doubt this aloneness added a sense of treasure to the view. 

The Rogue River Gorge

At this overlook, there was this incredible narrow chasm, with the river plunging down, sending water rushing, breaking over large rocks, sending up wild waves and the vibrant sound of rushing water. A sign at the overlook stated that “enough water (410,000 gallons) flows beneath your feet each minute to fill an Olympic-size pool.” The wonder! 

Right alongside this chasm was a thick forest of Douglas firs, much like we had witnessed on the drive. The trees stood together, tall, straight, strong, just beautiful, with their criss-cross patterned bark and branches of evergreen needles bending, bowing, enveloping one another. In the midst of these, there was a thick, hearty stump, with an informational sign posted nearby:

The Living Stump

Here on the flat surface of the lava flow, away from the Gorge wall,

the trees live as a group rather than as individuals. The roots of these

Douglas firs have grown together, providing each other with nutrients and water. 

Before it was cut, the roots of this tree had grafted onto those of a neighbor. 

Because of this, the stump continues to live.

Douglas firs and the living stump at Rogue River Gorge

The stump was not decayed, broken, insect-ridden, as one might expect. Instead, it was covered with bark, much like our own cuts and scrapes form scabs, and seemed to be thriving.

I hope to hold onto the image of this forest, these trees encircling and caring for one another, always and forever. I love how instinctive and natural it is for trees to simply reach out towards one another. This experience continues to fill me with contemplation -

How might I be more like these trees?

How do others help me live fully?

    How might my own actions help build a more loving human community?

What is my role? 

    Am I truly there for others?

Am I reaching out to those around me, even those I don’t know very well? 

    What blocks me from being open to others?

How do I nurture the “we”? 

    What does it mean to live in community with one another?

How do we help each other live fully?

How might I be more like these trees?

"What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and

it is grounded with love and and a sense of community,

you can make the impossible possible."

- John Lewis

In closing, let me share a poem I wrote about this wonder.

innate wisdom 

along the Rogue River Gorge

with my own eyes 

I witnessed 

a living stump

a Douglas fir 

cut down 





what I didn’t know before is

this is true for many trees

roots of neighbors

lovingly reach out 

nurturing the depleted 


let each other know

when they are stressed


live as community


rather than 




take care of one another

a giving co-living 

innate wisdom