Monday, January 25, 2010

Like an Ancient Gnarled Tree ...

This morning we're swathed in a thick layer of snow. All through the night our trees plopped their huge clods of moisture-drenched delight upon our roof. They landed with thunderous thumps then slid heavily--with equally loud thuds--to the ground. Since yesterday's snowshoe through heavily-laden trees, still-warmish temperatures and gusts of wind whisked away the artful loops, and curls, and draping coils of frozen white that snaked over thick branches and feathered along their thin branched fingerlings.

As I move I watch the high tops of trees move with me, their upper branches swaying and dancing as they engage in dangling conversations. My practice passes quickly; thick clots of clouds on the distant horizon form a heavily curtained backdrop to the dance of branches and treetops.
An ancient gnarled tree:
Too fibrous for a logger's saw,
Too twisted to fit a carpenter's square,
Outlasts the whole forest.
          From: 365 Tao, p. 25, 'Uselessness'
Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao's author, explains in his reading for January 25 that, just as strong, beautiful, and useful trees are cut down, useless ones survive. The same is true for people, he says, with those of us who are too plain to be noticed left undisturbed and unexploited.

Just because we are plain, writes Ming-Dao does not mean we are without value. For, if we are considered useless, we may live freely without interference and have the opportunity to express our own individuality.

And so I perform my daily practice in peace. No one expects too much of me since I am neither strong nor beautiful. Still, these daily t'ai chi chih moments add up to a greater whole over the long-term. Because of my flaws, my wounds, my imperfections, I do become stronger. The beauty within me grows.

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