This particular piece is a result of a years’ long process of at first seeing, and then naming, various tenets of my personal theology. Therefore, this piece is born out of my personal evolution.
While researching trees, I looked for a number of unique aspects – shape, metaphorical/mythological significance, needs for care, and so on. I searched for trees that I felt embodied me and the story I wanted to tell. There were many trees that resonated with me, and I vacillated between a few, but ultimately I chose the willow for two primary reasons. First, it is imperative for willows to be near a water source. They thrive on river beds and near lakes and ponds. Their roots have a capacity of growing several feet in a year and have been known to crush pipes or choke out other plants, all in search of water. Similarly, I too need to be near a source of enrichment and growth. So, be it experiencing God through established relationships, random encounters, nature, or solitude, my spirit must remain connected to the Divine. My very life depends upon the nourishment I receive from, and my subsequent pursuit of, that Divine connection.
The second reason I chose the willow is for its honesty about its beauty. It is aesthetically pleasing as it sways in the breeze; and it simultaneously exudes romanticism and elicits contemplation. However, once the observer gets closer, it becomes apparent that the willow is perhaps not what one was expecting. Slightly dull colors, broken twigs, fallen and scattered leaves: a less than romantic sight. And yet, there is an essence of beauty that is not always able to be named so much as it is experienced. So, it is for my need for belonging, as well as an honest portrayal of who I am, that I felt I identified well with the willow.
As with all growth, this piece starts beneath the surface. Within the roots you can see the words “community,” “hope,” and “love.” Those are not just words or pretty concepts; those are realities that ground me. As I have experienced community and love in my own life in real and significant ways, my sense of belonging – to God, to others, and to myself – only becomes more rooted. Armed with such an understanding, I can more fully experience grace, exact justice, extend respect, and engender hope. However, it is not so one-sided, because belonging assumes a mutuality. Not only, then, am I giving grace, justice, respect, and hope, but I am also receiving it, thus bringing community, and the blossoming seed, full circle.