Life holds a strength that will not be extinguished, that will crack open the most oppressive of constraints. When I was in Tenant’s Harbor, a few weeks ago, I saw this spruce tree growing out of a huge boulder. Its roots were literally embedded in a crack in the rock itself. I wondered if a seed had found a tiny patch of soil within a crack, or if in fact, the seed, rooting, had created the crack in the rock. But however it first took hold, the roots were now literally splitting the rock in two.
I don’t mean to reduce a boulder to a metaphor for something bad. I love these boulders that populate our landscape from the time of the ice age. They also harbor all sorts of life in the forms of lichen and moss. But just for a moment, I do ask its indulgence to borrow a possible metaphor for hope in these times of despair.
There is so much about which to feel despondent right now. Migrant children confined in tent prisons away from family. Trans friends being erased from official acknowledgement or protection. People in Gaza and Yemen being starved and bombarded with weapons made in the U.S. Misogynists and racists gunning down innocent people in sanctuaries for prayer. Leaders who belittle other people and stir up hate and destroy the earth for profit and greed. I could go on and on. We are facing dire futures, caught in the grip of suffocating destruction.
Tomorrow there will be a vote in our country. Things will get better or worse. I will vote. But I don’t put all my hopes in the vote. As we saw in the election of 2016, elections can be interfered with. (Our own government has also interfered in the elections of other countries.) There has been a concerted effort to suppress the votes of Black citizens in Georgia, Native Americans in North Dakota, others. There are voting machines that cannot be trusted to report votes accurately. I hope that in the vote, things will get better. I hope that so many people vote that we can overcome the suppression. But my deepest hope is not in the vote. My deepest hope is in the power of the spruce to crack the boulder, the power of the earth to restore itself, the power of the love we hold in our beating hearts.
There was one more thing about the spruce. It was not alone. There were two trees growing the crack in that boulder. You can just barely see the second smaller trunk behind the first in the photo above. But here is another photo, a close-up from behind. Two trees–both of them might be said to be caught in the boulder. But they are not caught. They are growing strong, green, full of life and energy. They are cracking that boulder together. And so we humans, too, must not face these despairs alone, must find each other and join our strengths together.
A boulder seems to be hard and unyielding. Roots seem to be gentle and soft. But the rock does yield to the tree. Remember that.