A Stump

Be rooted like a tree / Planted by the stream  
                                                 {Brendan Jamieson}

Clyde Kilby, an English professor I wish I had known, crafted a catalog of 11 Resolutions (and I love that it was 11, not 10). This was his personal creed, his this I believe and this is how I will live. His sixth resolution is my favorite:

I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are, but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying, and ecstatic” existence.

I’ve borrowed this practice; and on most days after I run, I’ll stroll a few minutes extra. I breathe deeply and try to pay attention to my world. I’ll look around for some physical object, something on which to gaze. It may be the billows of white clouds or moss covering a portion of rock. A leaf tossed by the wind. A fence. A blade of grass. I take in the sight. I ponder the sheer fact that it exists. I notice that I had nothing to do with making it exist; and after I walk away I have no impact on whether or not it continues to exist.

Sometimes it’s good to remember that, valuable as I may be, I do not hold the world together.

Today, the object was a stump. Not a tree. Not a sapling full of possibility. Just a stump. A gnarled, cracked stump. A piece of creation that’s already had it’s day. It isn’t good for much. Other than a dog hiking a leg it’s direction every now and then, I bet no one pays this stump any attention. Yet there it sits. It sat there yesterday. It will be sitting there tomorrow. The rain will thrash. The sun will bake. The winds will flurry. But the stump merely sits, nestled in its little spot, its roots dug deep into the soil that will not let it loose.

Amid a world of noise, a world insisting we have something good to say, something smart to say …  amid a culture where we are jostling for position, spreading our branches so to speak, it’s balm to my weary soul to watch a stout old stump and know that sitting there, out of the way – sturdy and solid but unbothered and at rest –  can be enough.

2 Replies to “A Stump”

  1. Great post Winn! I think getting older is a bit like this . . . often I feel like a stump. Already lived out most of my usefulness . . . content to know I was and because I was, they are, and life moves on at a fast clip.

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