Our kitchen window looks out over a panorama of slender gum trees and right in my sight line, at the point where our sloping driveway meets the dirt road, is a massive ghost gum. Like me, it’s old, and it’s got scars where it’s lost a few branches over the years. Last year I spent a lot of lockdown, hard and just the ordinary type, standing at the sink, admiring its beauty as month by month the grey white trunk gradually morphing into shades of red and orange.
Now we’re half way through February and all that colour, faded now to shades of brown, is peeling off in long strips. They litter the driveway, clog up the stony gutters and catch in the shrubbery – and sets me reflecting about the word shedding, the way it has undertones of letting go, and how much that we took for granted was let go in 2020.
As life goes on we grow and change we let go of so much, sometimes joyfully, occasionally reluctantly, often carelessly. We leave school behind, grieve the death of loved ones, say goodbye to a favourite house, change our minds about things we once believed would always stay the same. Which leads me back to my shedding ghost gum and how that always happens round about the beginning of Lent and . . .yes, Lent.
The ghost gum reminds me that the bark isn’t the tree. When the time is right the tree lets go of its tatters of old bark to welcome the new life that waits within its towering height. As I’ve aged, one constant in my faith life has been my Baptism. But I’ve shed a lot of the beliefs and practices that I once assumed were necessary to be a good Catholic. Slowly they have been replaced by a different, more adult way of relating to God, a broadening of compassion, of finding out that prayer can be an appreciation of quiet spaces without words, that the Spirit of God speaks through both women and men.
A small shred of bark on my desk to reminds me that I have now come to a place of peace in the way I live out my faith. Where once upon a time I gave up lollies, now, like my ghost gum, the letting-go that I still associate with Lent is part of my everyday. That’s my Lent, 2021.