Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


The very spirit of this age

Artwork: Kathy Gilman

At the year’s final full moon, as winter solstice draws near, I’m reminded of words of Pearl Buck’s:

“It is good to know our universe.

What is new is only new to us.”

The newness of the season arriving now can be a quiet kind, and an invitation to quiet, and stillness.

To waiting, and listening, in order to hear.

Here in the northern hemisphere, the Solstice brings with it such a distinct meeting place of light and dark.

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

And yet, as with the sun’s gradually returning light, we can be warmed by the understanding that the forces at work in human life are drawing us away from a dark, centuries-old preoccupation with survival and “fighting evil” toward our highest destiny: a creative, collaborative and potentially limitless building of the good.

This is a prospect in which every one has a part to play and every culture has unique contributions to make.

Frederick Buechner expressed this reality beautifully:

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

“Renewal is the order of the day,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declared when he visited North America in 1912.

Photo: Hertha Götz

“And all this newness hath its source in the fresh outpourings of wondrous grace and favor from the Lord of the Kingdom, which have renewed the world.

“The people, therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age.”

Completely free. All of our attention.

My reminder, as the season changes, and 2020 arrives.


In a Light-infused season


Claude Monet, The Road in front of Saint-Siméon Farm in Winter, 1867.


O PEOPLES of the world! The Sun of Truth hath risen to illumine the whole earth, and to spiritualize the community of man. Laudable are the results and the fruits thereof, abundant the holy evidences deriving from this grace.

This is mercy unalloyed and purest bounty; it is light for the world and all its peoples; it is harmony and fellowship, and love and solidarity; indeed it is compassion and unity, and the end of foreignness; it is the being at one, in complete dignity and freedom, with all on earth.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha  944080_1103095966369547_7004980646450369999_n


There are two kinds of light.

There is the visible light of the sun, by whose aid we can discern the beauties of the world around us—without this we could see nothing.

Nevertheless, though it is the function of this light to make things visible to us, it cannot give us the power to see them or to understand what their various charms may be, for this light has no intelligence, no consciousness.

It is the light of the intellect which gives us knowledge and understanding, and without this light the physical eyes would be useless. 12241461_10150706218954999_7988366078325665830_n

This light of the intellect is the highest light that exists, for it is born of the Light Divine.

The light of the intellect enables us to understand and realize all that exists, but it is only the Divine Light that can give us sight for the invisible things, and which enables us to see truths that will only be visible to the world thousands of years hence.


~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks



The Light keeps a place for each of us


Photo: David Campbell / http://gbctours.com

For two years in a row, I had the pleasure of wandering around the fairy-tale scenes of Germany in Advent. It’s a time full of the beauty and light that the Solstice brings, even as it’s paradoxically the time when our ancestors huddled near fires hoping their stored-up harvest would last long enough.

One December day, I made my way to the market I purposefully frequent for my own supplies. It’s a store that probably would have been put out of business by the much larger one built on the edge of town recently were it not for the one resource it provides that the other behemoth cannot: community.

Kauf2Every employee, without fail, says hello, even shares a thought or remark that invites conversation.

The aisles are narrow, yet we all seem to be able to find what we seek and, as if by tacit, unspoken agreement, move thoughtfully, so there never seems to be jostling or haste. Shoppers go to the larger store, if they’re looking for those things.

Customers wait patiently in the single check-out line, actually talking to each other, as the cashier assists the pensioner who moves quite slowly, and then forgets to retrieve his cane.

A young man leaves his place in front of me to run after him with it.

I watch their silent exchange outside through the window behind the cashier, who has also stopped to watch, along with the mother and toddler who are next in line.

Nobody seems to mind that this incident has brought everything to a halt.2501c71da8c20a0d6985117771781830

The old man’s face first looks startled, then lights like a sun. For an instant, it’s a boy’s face again.

The young man looks modest, then happy.

They part with a wave.

Seconds later, he reappears inside the store just as I’m arriving at the cashier. He shows no sign of expecting anything other than heading to the end of the line.

I have so little German – mainly a smile, and enough words to thank him, and tell him that his place in line has waited for him, right here, as I point in front of me.


Photo: David Campbell / http://gbctours.com

His face is a precise reflection of that sun in the old man’s.

My heart feels as though all time, and all happiness, are here with us in the perfect oneness of this moment. There is enough light in us never to leave anyone in the dark, nor cold or hungry, or lonely or forgotten.

What a bonus comes home with my shopping bags – the very Spirit of the Christkind, the Christ Child.

It didn’t cost me a thing. Yet how much poorer I’d feel without it.